—Haley Harada, Staff Writer—
When Qin Shi Huang, first Emperor of China and founder of the Qin Dynasty, passed away in 210 BC, he was sent off with an army to protect him in burial and to serve him in the next life. The Terracotta Army consists of roughly 8,000 life sized statues of soldiers equipped with weapons, chariots and horses. After being buried with their Emperor over 2,000 years ago, the Terracotta Army has now made its way to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibit contains 10 of the Terracotta figures, cavalry horses, armor, horse and chariot fittings, jewelry, ceramics, as well as the history of this man and the impact that he had. Over 40 of the items on display have never before been viewed in the United States. This exhibit will be available to view until March 11th,
When Ying Zheng was born, what is now known as China was nothing more than 7 states at war. At the age of 13, he took his place as the King of Qin, one of the seven warring states, and immediately got to work on having his mausoleum built, along with the army that would occupy it. Apart from this, Zheng achieved many other things in his lifetime. His most significant accomplishment was that he managed to unify the 7 states into what is now the third largest country in the world as well as an emerging superpower, China. Because of this achievement, Zheng became the first Emperor of a unified China and changed his name to Qin Shi Huang. He then began working to create China’s imperial system, writing system, national currency, laws, weights, measurements, etc. As a way to consolidate his empire, he also began the building of the Great Wall.
While all of this was happening, the Emperor was also searching for a way to fight mortality and become a “True Man”, someone in Chinese mythology that managed to obtain immortality. He sent out scholars and countless young people to find elixirs and secrets that would allow him to live eternally. An example of this; someone had informed him that there were three spirit mountains in the midst of the sea with immortals living on them. After hearing of this, the Emperor ordered for thousands of young boys and girls to be sent to these mountains to find the immortals that lived there. Huang would also begin taking snake oil remedies that were meant to fight mortality, as well as taking mercury to build up his resistance to death. This became an obsession of his and caused apparent paranoia. Unfortunately for him, this was all to no avail. Knowing that there a was a possibility that he would not be able to gain immortality for his current life, he made plans to conquer his next one. This would explain why he felt the need to have the terracotta army built. As well as the thousands of soldiers and weapons that occupied the mausoleum, he also had an abundance of jewels, riches and high levels mercury that were in troughs as if it were water. Unfortunately for the Emperor, his life came to an end at age 49. Ironically, the thing that is believed to have killed him so early in his life is the mercury that he was taking in order to prevent that from happening in the first place.
Huang might not have technically gotten his wish for eternal life, however, his name and legacy is something that is still remembered and talked about to this day. If you would like to learn more about Huang, as well as seeing actual terracotta statues that have never before been viewed in the US, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will have an exhibit on it until March 11, 2018.