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The Emperor's Necropolis
Chem X- The Chemistry of The First Emperor of China
His Rein
His Quest for Immortality
The Emperor's Necropolis
The Terracotta Warriors
Chemists in a big world
I am
My China Project
My family and friends
About Me
My town
A day in my life

What treasures lay under this mass of earth, just waiting to be discovered?

Picture 1 of the mound in which the emperor's tomb is with. I took this picture in a moving bus.

A Background.

If the emperor could not live forever, he as least wanted to be remembered for that long. The emperor had been planning the preparations for his death since the age of thirteen when he had first ascended the throne after the death of his father, even before he was the first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. It is the largest mausoleum ever discovered in the world. It is bigger than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. It covers a total of 2.18 million square meters. The tomb alone covers 220,000 square meters, its bottom measuring 485 metes by 515 meters, and was designed to be 166 meters high, but after years of weathering and damage it has been reduced to 76 meters.

It originally had inner and outer sections, and an underground palace that has been discovered. The construction involved 700,000 laborers and took 36 years to be completed, just in time of his death. To this date it has not been excavated.

It is located just east of Xi'an on the Lishan Mountain in the south overlooking the Wei river to the north. The land from Lishan to Mount Hua is supposedly in the shape of a dragon with the imperial tomb in the dragon's eye. Today the tomb would be passed over as it is a hill covered in vegetation, but the treasures that lay untouched for more than two thousand years is unimaginable. But based on an old legend told by China's most important historian Sima Qian, and modern technology, we have some idea.

The Materials.

There seem to be three major elements in the emperor's necropolis and those are gold, silver and mercury.


Mercury is a transitional element that is found in its ore cinnabar in nature. It is the only metal element that is a liquid at room temperature. It is sometimes referred to as quicksilver, and its symbol in Hg. The atomic number is 80 and its atomic mass is 200.59. It is located in the periodic table in group 12, period 6, in the d-block. It is a fair conductor of electricity and alloys easily with many metals such as gold, silver, and tin.

Mercury has been known to men for centuries, as is why we see it in ancient China.


Gold is a solid at room temperature. It is attractive and highly valuable, known for at least 5500 years, and is the most malleable of all metals. It can be found in nature ore but is most often alloyed with other metals, and is a good conductor of electricity and heat. The atomic number of gold is 79, atomic mass 196.97, symbol Au, found in period 6, and group 11 on the periodic table of the elements.


Silver is also a solid at room temperature, and has been known since the prehistoric times and is thought to have been separated from lead since 3,000 BC. Silver is very ductile and malleable. When pure it is the greatest conductor of electricity and heat out of all of the metals, and tend to tarnish when it comes in contact with the air. Its atomic number is 47, atomic mass 107.87, its symbol is Ag, located in period 5, group 11 in the periodic table of elements.

Picture 2. To see the mound look just pass the wall also pictured.

The Layout and Significance.

From the great Chinese historian Sima Qian who wrote in early Han dynasty, archaeologists have been given great insight into what lays under the great mound of green vegetation seen today.

Sima Qian wrote that the coffin of the emperor is one cast out of bronze. He wrote that there is an underground palace that is a gem incrusted replica of the one he had occupied, with booby traps that have automatic-shooting arrows to discourage tomb robbers. In the central of the tomb heaven and earth are supposed to be represented. The ceiling is shaped as the sun, the moon and the stars by inlaying pearls and gems to symbolize the sky. To represent the earth the ground is carved into rivers like the Yangtze, lakes, and seas in quicksilver (mercury). There is said to be brightly lit lamps of whale oil for eternity. It seems that all of this can be proved by archeological finds.

Testing/Research Today.

Chinese scientists and archaeologists have been testing and excavating the tomb and the land surrounding it since the 70s. They have been using aerial remote sensing and geophysical techniques to identify the position, depth, basic structure and the surrounding area around the tomb. However those still remain a mystery despite all of their testing.

Scientists have also taken soil of the land in and around the mound and have found high concentrations of mercury in the soil that would suggest that the rivers, lakes, and seas of quicksilver are existent, unless there is another possible reason for such high concentrations of mercury in that area. One is inclined to believe that legend is piece by piece being confirmed.

Archaeologists have also found two layers of city walls joining each other, with the outer wall surrounding an area of 2.13 kilometers, believed to form the central area of the mausoleum.

Important sites that have been discovered outside the outer wall are the Terracotta Warrior pits 1, 2, and 3, a pit of bronze cranes, a fish pond, a stone amour processing yard among other constructions.

Why hasn't the mound been excavated? Well its simple, and its because we simply do not know how to without ruining everything hidden under. They don't want to repeat what happened and what is happening with the Terracotta Warriors, so they are waiting for more advanced technology so they can do so safely and responsibly. There is also the issue of research conditions and the number of man power and hours required. However, I am confident that one day, hopefully in my life time, the tomb will be unearthed and there will not be a scientist out there who doesn't want to have a part in such a monumental discovery and important historical event.

Click here to go to the Emperor's home page.

Cilck here for the "down-low" on the Emperor's rein.

Cilck here to go to ; His Quest for Immortality.

Click here for; The Terracotta Warriors.

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That's all for now folks!

Click here to go to the AACE web page.