It was discovered in 1974 but has been closed for more than 2,200 years.
One of the great wonders that China has left us, in addition to the Great Wall, is the enormous collection of clay statues known as the Terracotta Warriors. These are more than 8,000 life-size soldiers guarding the tomb of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang.
The archaeological site was discovered on February 2, 1974 by farmers in Shaanxi Province , during searches for water. They had previously found remains of warriors in the area but they did not give them importance. It was until an excavation found a huge pit with life-size figures of warriors, officials, acrobats, musicians and even horses.
So, a group of archaeologists met to investigate the amazing find. It turns out that they had found the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China, who ruled between 221 BC and 210 BC. However, they did not open the mausoleum; despite the archaeological custom of opening tombs and sarcophagi to learn a little more about life at that time.
After the death of the emperor, more than 2,200 years ago, the tomb was closed, never to be opened again. Despite the enormous curiosity that experts have to find out what is inside, they have good reasons not to.
There is a legend that ensures that the tomb is full of traps to end the life of whoever dares to enter.
Typically, archaeologists assess the area and other factors before beginning to excavate and unearth remains. In this case, the experts were concerned that the excavation work would cause irreparable damage to the structure of the tomb. This has already happened at other sites such as Troy , which in 1870, investigations caused serious damage.
This is one reason why archaeologists decided not to open Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. But there is another, equally powerful, and that is that there are deadly traps inside. According to a text by an ancient Chinese historian named Sima Qian , the tomb is designed to attack intruders and prevent them from looting it.
Sima Quian is considered the most important historian of the Han dynasty , and a hundred years after the death of Emperor Quin, he gave an account of the peculiarities of the tomb. He noticed that there were arrows and other projectile-launching devices as well as traps. And should some or all of these mechanisms fail, there would be a flood of liquid mercury.
The tomb was not only filled with incredible treasures, fine vessels and rare artifacts, it was also filled with mercury. This element was used to represent the ocean and the Yangtze and Yellow rivers , as the Chinese believed that mercury was an elixir of life.
And an article published in Scientific Reports in 2020 showed that it is not just an ancient legend. It turns out that traces of mercury have been found around the tomb of the Qin emperor. The researchers believe the substance is seeping through cracks in the tomb that have appeared naturally over time. And furthermore, they are convinced that the grave has never really been opened; and apparently, it will remain so for many more years.