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The Book That Lit The Pyres
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France (33)

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Where Is He Buried ?
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Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang ?

Chinese Pyramids of Xi’an : Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang ?

Chinese Pyramids

The largest tomb in the world was to contain everything that Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor and the man who united China, had conquered during his lifetime.

Two kilometers from the city of Xi’an, in China's Shaanxi Province, hundreds of mounds of earth rise between farms, some medium in size, others gigantic. What they contain is a mystery, but we know that there were buried emperors, generals, and nobles, some of whom were the most powerful to ever live on Earth. Around 2,000 years ago, these lands were the scene of bloody conflicts; mighty armies clashed there, dynasties rise and fall. The surroundings echoed with the shock of the tools of thousands of workers building the graves. Monuments of a fantastic world that were to last even after death: symbols of power and wealth; symbols of the state that were to last for all eternity.

The most important of all these tombs is also connected to the most powerful of the curses. In 246 BC, a unified China did not yet exist. A series of small kingdoms fought among themselves for supremacy. In the kingdom of Qin, a very young ruler who had just inherited the throne ordered the construction of his own tomb. The tombs of the high personages were to be built on higher ground and that of the king was to be the highest of all: the builders chose a place on the slopes of Mount Li. Now the mausoleum they were about to build was to become one of the most fascinating works ever created on Earth. The child-king of Qin succeeded in the years that followed in uniting the kingdoms under his command into one empire: thus was born the empire of Qin or China.

The architects were tasked with designing a monument worthy of the unifier of China: an entire royal palace reproduced underground, inside a mountain created for the occasion. An artificial mountain which today measures around 350 meters across and 70 meters high. It was built with the contribution of 3.5 million tons of soil, carefully packed. It was much more than a grave: covering almost 6,000 hectares of land, it was one of the largest burial complexes ever built in the world.

Ancient texts describe the burial in these terms: “On the ceiling shone the celestial constellations. On the floor was depicted the emperor's realm, with rivers and oceans depicted with mercury, and replicas of all his royal palaces, ready to welcome his soul. The whole was surrounded by everything he would need in the Hereafter. The funeral presents must have been impressive. Just think that there was not even a mention of the 8,000-strong army, the spectacular "Xi’an Army," buried near the tomb.

The whole universe of the emperor had been copied by forging bronze and modeling terracotta, but also by offering tributes of blood. In addition to hundreds of propitiatory human sacrifices, the lives of thousands of workers were destroyed, working to the end of their strength, deprived of food and sleep. All were to give a year of their life in the service of the emperor and the construction of the tomb.

And there is another question: According to historical records, when construction was completed, the tomb must have been 115 meters high, much taller than it is today. A pyramid of this height should have a base of 500 meters across, which is five times the size of it now, and four times the size of the Egyptian pyramids. Experts believe the current reduced dimensions are due to the prolonged action of winds and rains that have eroded the huge mound of earth. But another theory claims that the tomb is lower because it was never finished.

Indeed, when the emperor came to die in 210 BC, the people revolted against the atrocities they had suffered, thus putting an end to their dynasty forever. Perhaps Qin's mad dream of recreating an underground empire to accompany him to the afterlife failed. But, on the other hand, what remains alive after more than 2,000 years is his most extraordinary endeavor: the unification of China. A nation traveling at full speed to a leadership role, for the very foreseeable future.