The First Emperor, who took power aged 13 with his mother as Protector
The mausoleum tumulus
Visiting Liverpool again to see the Chinese Terracotta Army exhibition, the exacting cruelty of this would be immortal ruler, whose palace streets and armies were recreated to accompany him into the afterlife as powerfully as in actual life, is what
strikes you. To maintain the sacred secrecy of the burial place, the craftsmen who designed it were killed along with many others who were to accompany him in his time with the ancestors; concubine or soldier, stable lad or horse, you were going too.
Like the Egyptian pharoahs, this first ruler sought to be a living god, which ironically, seems to have been the cause of his demise, from mercury poisoning at the age of 49, consuming that and powdered jade to ensure that he would live forever. The
pieces are remarkable, individual faces so distinctly modelled, and there were thousands of them under the hill of the farmer's ordinary land, disturbed in tilling and rediscovered over two thousand years later. So, either the craftsmen did not die in
vain as the burial site remained undiscovered, or as with all empires, time eroded this one's legacy, along with the belief systems that created it and the power that let it hold sway. The Han dynasty came next, and their figures are much smaller. I
wonder if the old people watching them being made used to say, 'they're not a patch on the real thing, they knew how to do things in my day.' For apparently, there were workshops in go all over the show to get the production line running efficiently
for the mighty tomb, started in the first Emperor's lifetime and still being finished after his death.