TREASURES  of  Lost  Races  continued

China's All-Seeing Eyes

"Every man an archaeologist and every woman a historian" is a slogan almost as catchy as the one found prominently displayed in most American union haUs: "A Good Woman Is a Union Woman." Not everyone in the U.S. agrees with the latter; but just about everyone in Communist China happily attempts to live up to the first one. Recovering the triumphs of the past is beginning to be extremely important ;to the government of the People's Republic of China.

When Chiang Kai-shek's government fled mainland China in 1949 and strengthened their hold on the island of Formosa, renaming it Nationalist China, they did not go empty-handed. They took with them an enormous collection of archaeological artifacts and Chinese historical treasure. So complete was their "stripped earth" policy that when their withdrawal had been completed and the Nationalists had regrouped on Taiwan, it was as if China had completely lost its historical heritage. There was very little left that could be used by the incoming Mao Tse-tung regime on which to base its continuity of government. Furthermore, as a country with a colorful history that dates back for thousands of years, the Chinese people have always possessed a pride in their historical accomplishments. To be left with stripped earth, without the opportunity to gaze at the magnificent feats of their ancestors, made the mainland Chinese feel dishonored.

Recognizing the vast importance of reestablishing their historical and cultural links with their forefathers, the Communist government has adopted a policy under which every one of the country's 950 million citizens acts as a part-time archaeologist. Using Mao Tse-tung's slogan, "Let the Past Serve the Present," Chinese have been taught to be constantly on the lookout for artifacts, how to recognize them, how and where to report their discoveries, and the type of precautions to take until the experts arrive on the scene. As a result, China is beginning to rediscover its rich historical heritage, this time not from Chiang's booty, but from hitherto unknown treasure now being discovered by China's citizens.

Some very important finds have been made in China since the 1960s which testify to the prosperity and opulence that characterized ancient China, although an assessment of the discoveries indicates that some things really haven't changed all that much. This was the case when a post-mortem was conducted on the remains of the Marchioness of Tai, two thousand years after her burial. Despite her wealth and exalted position in Chinese society, the medical examination revealed that she had died of a heart attack, brought on by overeating! Her stomach still showed the remains of no fewer than 138 melon seeds!

She would still be buried in her quiet tomb had it not been for the watchful eyes of the workmen who were digging a foundation for a new hospital at Mawang-tui near Hunan in 1971. Stumbling on an unknown obstruction, they stopped their work and called for assistance. The hastily summoned archaeologist uncovered a grave containing a hexagonal wooden coffin insulated by a thick charcoal jacket that was so tightly sealed off with china clay that it had kept the body in a near-perfect state of preservation ever since its burial in 150 B.C.

With her short, stocky build, deformed back, and-undoubtedly wobbly gait, the Marchioness had been no raving beauty when she died at fifty years of age; but, thanks to the excitement created by her exhumation, she will go down in the annals of modern archaeological history as a major discovery. Ironically, she herself was only a minor part of the excitement generated by the finding of her grave. Her casket was unique indeed, and the 162 wooden figurines that had been placed in her tomb to accompany her to the spiritual realm also earned their share of the attention. Even her carefully selected wardrobe, checked and inventoried on slips of bamboo, was not the focal point of the find. The real excitement came with the finding of some fifty-odd rolls of some of the finest silk ever to come to us out of ancient China. Stored in basket-weave boxes and, remarkably, in a perfect state of preservation thanks to the dry atmosphere in the tomb, the finely woven bolts and the fabric used in her exquisite wardrobe present modern-day China with an unmatched example of the elegant apparel worn by ladies of rank in Imperial China.

Commented a spokesman for the People's Democratic Republic of China, "The fact that the lady's husband used so much labor and wealth for the burial of his wife shows how brutally the feudal ruling class oppressed and exploited the laboring people." A cynical remark befitting the philosophy of the present government of the country. I sometimes wonder how the same spokesman must have felt three years later when, in the spring of 1974, peasants and workers digging for a well in the Lin-t-'ung district accidentally stumbled on part of a huge underground vault that eventually led to what may be the greatest archaeological find of the century—and perhaps of all times.

The area is of great importance for China, for it was here that the country's earliest emperors lived and died. Hundreds of imperial tombs are hidden beneath the picturesque landscape, each one of them filled with art treasures and riches: a virtual archaeologist's paradise. But because of Red China's preoccupation with maintaining its political system and the development of its industry, very little of it has been excavated. [Remember  this  book  was  published  in  1982 - Keith Hunt]

For many years China's historians have been eager to check out the accuracy of a report found in the works of the great Chinese chronicler Suma Chien, who in 100 B.C. wrote, "As soon as the First Emperor became king of Ch'in, excavations and building had been started at Mount Li, while after he won the empire, more than 700,000 conscripts from all parts of the country worked there. They dug through three underground rivers and poured molten copper for the outer coffin, and the tomb was filled with models of palaces, pavilions, and offices, as well as fine vessels, precious stones and rare items. Artisans were instructed to set up crossbows so that any robber breaking in would be killed. All the rivers of the country, the Yellow River and the Yangtze, were reproduced in quicksilver and made to flow into a miniature ocean through some mechanical means. Even the North Star and the constellations of the heavens were set in precious stones and set in a great copper dome above, while the regions of the earth were also shown. Candles made of whale oil were lit to ensure their burning for the longest possible time."

Fascinating tale; fascinating tomb. But even though its location is known, nothing has ever disturbed its serenity. It stands at a majestic height of 165 feet against the northern foothills of Mount Li in the Wei River valley of China's Kansu province. But as staggering as its reported riches may be, there has always been an unspoken reluctance on the part of China's authorities to enter Chi'n Shi Huang Ti's tomb. Can it be that despite the harsh exterior of the Chinese communistic structure, traditional ancestor worship has not totally vanished from the scene? The fifteen-story-high mound of earth is overgrown with a protective blanket of trees and blossoming wildflowers, as if nature itself is attempting to hide the naked burial mound from inquisitive eyes. The first emperor's sleep has not been disturbed for more than 2,200 years, but measures are now being taken to penetrate his peaceful grave.


History has its own way of springing surprises on us at the most unexpected moment, as was confirmed by the perchance discovery of an underground vault by a group of Chinese peasants a mile west of the emperor's tomb. The investigation that followed the announcement of their find soon began to reaffirm what had been hinted at by the ancient historical reports. The tomb complex of Chi'n Shi Huang Ti was not confined to the terrain immediately surrounding the gravesite but extended far beyond the fifteen-story mound. Archaeologists are now certain that the unexpected probe will lead them into the most extensive dig ever undertaken by an archaeological team, and that it will prove conclusively that the tomb was the center of an entire "spirit city," an area enclosing prayer temples, sacred stone tablets detailing the virtues of the emperor, and other inscriptions relating his accomplishments. Archaeologists believe that, enclosed within a walled square a quarter of a mile on each side, the inner spirit city was in turn surrounded by an "outer city" with a radius of four miles.

The historical background of the building of the tomb complex is perhaps as startling as what is being found. As soon as the future emperor ascended the throne at age thirteen and his mad rush for conquest of the neighboring kingdoms began, he also started planning his tomb, believing that after death he would rule the entire universe as he had ruled the earth. He fought for twenty-five years of life; lived in relative peace for another eleven years— but spent all thirty-six of them planning for his demise.

During his lifetime Chi'n Shi Huang Ti conquered all of China—in the words of the ancient Chinese historian Suma Chien, like "a silkworm devouring a mulberry leaf." Using the labor of thousands of prisoners and exiled Confucian scholars who were in total opposition to his overthrowing of the ancient ways, he expanded and connected the fragmentary ramparts that had been erected by feudal kings, forging them into the 1,500-mile-long Great Wall of China, a wall sufficiently wide to allow six horses to gallop abreast along the top. It was a ruthless building campaign in which the bones of the thousands who died during its construction were mixed with the mortar, giving the wall the well-earned name of the "longest cemetery on earth."

Today we are able to enjoy the legacies of the emperor's reign and his death, for both are well represented in the discoveries that are now being made in China. Soon after the well-diggers stumbled on the underground vault and handed their spades over to the archaeologists, the emperor's honor guard began to stick their heads through the sand—not in the form of broken bones or skeletons, but in life-size ceramic figures rendered in realistic detail. In each new area examined by the team, more terra cotta warriors were uncovered, exposed to the light of the sun for the first time in more than 2,200 years. They were all there: six-foot-tall sculptures of the emperor's warriors and servants, and replicas of their horses—all members of the imperial guard, vigilant and protective of the emperor's body. The faint traces of paint that still cling to the statues indicate that every one of them had been painted in its natural color and marked with the appropriate military rank or social standing.

In 1981 the excavations which had begun in 1974 entered a new stage when the diggers reached the western

[There is no doubt that each warrior in the emperor's army represented a real-life soldier, for they are all different. Sketched here is a general of the army of Emperor Chi'n Shi Huang Ti.]

[Terra cotta soldiers of the emperor's army being cleaned by a Chinese archaeologist [right) and interested peasants. The project is so gigantic that it takes a lot of untrained labor to help unearth the honor guard.]

side of the inner wall of the formerly roofed over area that housed the emperor's 6,000-man guard. There archaeologists unearthed two bronze chariots—with charioteers—each drawn by four bronze horses. Probes of the area have indicated that additional formations of ceramic soldiers are still buried, lined up in precisely the way they arrayed themselves before going into battle for the emperor.

While only a few of the eleven corridors presumed to be filled with men and horses have been excavated thus far, new surprises are encountered daily. It is now speculated that the vault may still contain hundreds more bronze horse-and-chariot teams. If this is true, and the princes, court officials, and possibly even the empress were "duplicated" in bronze and placed on the bronze chariots to accompany the emperor in death, then how about their jewelry? May we then expect to find that they are adorned with the exquisite jewelry, precious stones and ornaments worn by their living counterparts?

China's ancient history is coming to life in a strange sort of way, in spite of the loss of the valuable museum pieces taken to Formosa at the time of the Communist takeover. Yet the uncovering of the life-size 6,000-man Imperial Guard of Chi'n Shi Huang Ti is only a foretaste of what promises to be hidden within the tumulus of the emperor itself, which still remains untouched and holding on to its 2,200-year-old secrets. Suma Chien's detailed description of the construction and opulence of the tomb hints at relics so indescribably beautiful that the Chinese archaeologists just don't dare think that far ahead. All the splendor of gold and precious stones ever discovered anywhere else will undoubtedly fade into insignificance when the Chinese begin to inch their way into the burial place of their first emperor.   

The work conducted at the foot of Mount Li points up once again the Chinese preoccupation with immortality; when it wasn't being expressed by honoring the memories of their ancestors, it was directed toward the future in the making of preparations for the survival of their own corruptible bodies. Not every Chinese had the opportunity or the resources to make such preparations, but these measures were the rule rather than the exception among the members of the ruling classes.

One failed attempt at preserving bodies for the hereafter became known when workmen dug into the side of a low cliff ninety miles from Peking and discovered a chamber cut into the rocks containing the remains of the Princess Tau Wan, a lady who joined her ancestors over two thousand years ago. Her corpse had deteriorated to nothing more than a mere pinch of dust.

To protect her against the onslaught of the ages, loving hands had dressed her in a funerary suit consisting of a total of 2,156 separate plaques of handcrafted jade, held together by twenty-four ounces of gold wire. A gilded bronze headrest elaborately enhanced with jade had been placed under her head to allow her to rest more comfortably. Ironically, the suit that was to guarantee her survival into eternity had remained totally intact.

Her husband's eternal fate was no better. Given a similar burial in a cave near her's, Prince Liu Sheng was all but gone. A piece of a tooth was found amidst the remains of a disjointed suit similar to that of his wife.

Their graves caused a sensation in China when their jade suits and lavish funerary gifts were discovered in 1968. The old Chinese belief that a covering of jade would preserve the human body forever had finally received its coup de grace.