Secrets of the Emperors Tomb

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Secrets of the Emperor’s Tomb


Secrets of the Emperor’s Tomb

A report published in China Daily (a newspaper) on Friday, December 13, 2002, attracted my attention. I, too, have researched unsolved mysteries of a very remarkable Chinese ruler who lived his dangerous life over two thousand years ago. This research has begun over thirty years ago, when I, a Soviet teenager at the time, read about an ancient Chinese mirror used to diagnose illnesses (like many of my peers, I was interested in what we call in Russian “zagadki istorii or enigmas of history”). And what a fascinating enigma the life of Emperor Shihuangdi turned out to be! But let us start with the article in the Chinese newspaper, and go step by step.

The article was titled Survey to solve tomb mystery. According to its author, the

Chinese scientists will use remote sensing and geophysical techniques to survey the mysterious Mausoleum of the First Qin (pronounced Chin) Emperor. I will add some of my commentaries to a rather brief report in the Chinese newspaper.

The grand mausoleum is located 36 kilometers east of Xi’an (capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province). It was the eternal resting place for Ying Zheng, the emperor (Shighuangdi) of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE), who unified China for the first time in its turbulent history. The Mausoleum was a creation mixed with both blood and tears of many people”¦

Its construction started in the year 247 BCE. Chinese historical records stated that it took 700,000 people 36 years to build the luxurious underground tomb, where mercury was used to imitate rivers and lakes. The Mausoleum occupies about

56.25 square kilometers. Exotic treasures from all over the land and women (concubines) were buried with the deceased emperor. The Mausoleum was an elaborate construction, with jewels on the ceiling representing the constellations. Mercury was used to create imitations of the Yellow River and the Yangtze, lakes and the seas, assembled in such a way that they seemed to flow. Those who built the underground tomb were executed or walled inside the Mausoleum, lest they spread stories about its gold, gems, and secrets. 

The actual structure and position of the mausoleum are still a mystery despite the fact that several surveys having been conducted since the 1970s. Presently, Chinese scientists and archaeologists are carrying out a large-scale investigation of the tomb to get a general picture of it (according to Guan Haiyan, director of the Shaanxi Remote Sensing Center). He is also the project’s senior engineer, and he revealed that the scientists would use aerial remote sensing and geophysical techniques to identify the position, depth and basic structure of the underground palace, as well as the 60-square-kilometre area surrounding the tomb. Reading the article I got the impression that the Chinese government is very much interested in finding out about the secrets the mausoleum may hold. The survey, listed as a key project of the National High Technology Research and Development Program of the People’s Republic of China, is by far the most comprehensive research ever on the mausoleum. The project was scheduled to be completed by September of 2003. We may discover a few more interesting details about the Mausoleum, if the Chinese scientists will share their discoveries with the world. In December 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization listed the mausoleum as a World Heritage Site, together with the Great Wall and the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Were there truly rivers and lakes of mercury underground? What other secrets are buried in the Shaanxi Province?


Meanwhile, the discoveries already made at the site have aroused great interest throughout the world. Back in 1974 near Xi’an, a group of Chinese farmers from the Yen Tsai commune in Lintong County were digging a well and found, in the process, several terracotta figures buried deep underground. Future investigations uncovered burial pits of terracotta warriors and horses. The three vaults containing thousands of terracotta figures (known as bing ma yong) have been found 1.5 kilometers east of the mausoleum, and two sets of large bronze chariots and horses were excavated west of the mausoleum. 7000 life sized terracotta warriors, very detailed and painted like the soldiers of the Qin Empire, seem to guard many secrets of their dead Emperor.

They represented chariot warriors, clay archers, infantry, and cavalrymen. The terra-cotta worriers were armed with real weapons. Each warrior was exquisitely and very accurately a built, and possessed unique features.

At the time of Emperor Shihuangdi’s death, his Qin Empire stopped practicing burial of living human beings for some time. The terracotta soldiers would be replacement for the old funeral burial. But the Emperor’s son Huhai, according to ancient records, had ordered that all Shihuangdi’s concubines who never bore children be buried inside of Shihuangdi’s tomb. To prevent the builders of the tombs from revealing the inside of the tomb, Huhai also sealed off the tomb, with the builders inside. The tomb was said to have traps, crossbows and automatic arrows, to eliminate potential grave robbers. The tomb was decorated with precious stones and gems. Also, there were eternal lamps, lit by oil refined from mermaid fish from the East China Sea. A Chinese book from the fifth century BCE mentioned that moonlight pearls suspended in the tumulus (an ancient grave mound) light day and night. 

In 1979, the Museum of Qin Shihuangdi was established in China. Visitors to the country have the opportunity to see the terracotta warriors of the Emperor’s long ago buried army.

The discovery of the buried legion has created a stir all over the world, but according to the article in China Daily, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

As opposed to the Egyptian pyramids, which were constructed above ground level, the mausoleum is a huge underground complex designed to mirror the street plan of the Qin Dynasty’s capital. It is the first and the largest imperial mausoleum in China. 

There are tens of thousands of statues and treasures undoubtedly still remain to be unearthed from the site. Chinese archaeologists believe that the statues will be extremely valuable to study the Qin Dynasty’s society. What would the discovery of the crystal diagnosis device do to our medicine? What if the archaeologists find the legendary eternal lamps of the Emperor’s tomb? 

Qin Emperor Shihuangdi was probably the most influential of the 300 emperors who ruled royal dynasties throughout Chinese history. He established China’s first feudal empire. The founder of the first unified empire in the history of China was born in Handan, an ancient town in northern China. The future Emperor was said to possess high nose bridge, long eyes and “leopard” voice. His life was unusual, and his name is well known to the Chinese people, for he played an important part of their history. And yet, we still know little about the great and controversial ruler of ancient China. I have collected information about him for a number of years, mainly because of the amazing mirror he supposedly possessed. Many sources were used, including The Records of the Grand Historian, Sima Qian of the Han court. He had a great habit of collecting historical records during his travels on imperial service, and had excellent access to the imperial library.

Ying Zheng (Emperor Shihuangdi) was crowned at the age of 13. Twenty-five years later he unified China, though a series of wars. Who was he? According to ancient legends, Ying Zheng was born after being inside of his mother’s womb for 12 months. 

His childhood was less than happy, and very unstable. The seven states of China were warring between each other, and the bloodshed of China’s people inundated its cities and villages. Yi Ren, the boys’ father, was a hostage in the State (Principality) of Zhao. But the court gossip had it that his real father was Lü Buwei, Qin’s future Prime Minister. 

He was a wealthy merchant doing business in Zhao, but foremost, a keen political observer, who recognized Yi Ren’s potential. Lü Buwei invested into Yi Ren (Zhuangxiangwang), and also gave him a favorite concubine, as a present. In 259 BC, King Zhaoxiangwang died and King Xiaowenwang ascended to the throne of Qin (the name China most likely originated in Qin Dynasty). Lü Buwei was responsible for making Zhuangxiangwang an adopted son of the Qin king. Not long after that becoming the King, Yi Ren -Zhuangxiangwang had dispatched his warrior-Prime Minister Lü Buwei against the Zhou Kingdom to crush a conspiracy by local nobles to restrict Qin’s expansion. Zhou Kingdom was no more. Then a series of wars ensued against Haan Principality, Wei Principality and Zhao Principality. But later the Qin forces suffered a defeat at the hands of the united Yan-Zhao-Haan-Chu-Wei armies.

In May of 246 BCE the Qin King Yi Ren -Zhuangxiangwang died, and Ying Zheng (better known as Emperor Shihuangdi) became the ruler of Qin, but in reality, Lü Buwei and his former concubine, now empress dowager, controlled the country. After Ying Zhen became the King of Qin, Lü Buwei served him as prime minister, and together with other worthy nobles, was responsible for all political and military matters of Qin court for the next 13 years.

The young king wanted to create a powerful and united kingdom, and sought capable people to assist him. 

Zhong Fu or Uncle-Father was the name that Ying Zhen used to refer to Lü Buwei (a proxy, or second father was the proper meaning). By then Lü Buwei supplied the Queen mother with a new lover, and she bore him two sons, who were the King’s half-brothers. Ying Zhen ordered them to be killed after he learned of their existence. Their father, mandarin Changxin-hou rebelled in 238 BCE against the king and was defeated. His two sons (the king’s half brothers) were killed when their bodies were thrown on the ground in bags. The empress dowager was banished to a fortress away from her son.

Lü Buwei lost his power, prestige, and position. In 235 BCE, Lü Buwei died after drinking poison. 

The Emperor did forgive his mother later, and brought her back from the exile. 


The actual process of unification of the huge country through military campaigns and conquest was started in 473 BCE. The Qin state was isolated in the west of China by a section of the Yellow river and a mountain range, and thus protected from invasion of other Chinese armies. At the same time, its military forces gained experience protecting the borders against foreign invaders. During the tumultuous Warring States period, the northern and western Chinese states of Qin, Zhao, and Yen had all to defend their borders by building fortified walls to prevent a Xiongnu (nomads) invasion. This fortified defense line became known as the Great Wall centuries later when the iron hand of the future Emperor connected the fragmented walls through the hard labor of thousands of prisoners.

Ying Zheng (who became Emperor Shihuangdi after the unification) basically continued the process, and did so very skillfully, using military force, brutality and very cunning diplomacy. Qin became the strongest of the seven states, and after the other six were finally defeated, China became a unified empire, a feudal monarchy under a strong central bureaucratic government. All military and administrative powers of China were concentrated in the hands of the Emperor who ruled his country through twelve ministries directly responsible to him. 

He had a good advisor in the person of a keen observer and psychologist named Li Si (Li Szu), who came from a humble background. The Emperor had gathered other capable people around him: a strategist named Liao; and an irrigation expert named Zhengguo. He carried on his military conquest with determination and cruelty, year after year full of bloody battles. For instance, in a number of battles against Pingyang of Zhao (234 BCE), the Emperor’s forces killed over one hundred thousand of Zhao soldiers. The conquest was accompanied by intrigues, treachery, and natural disasters (earthquakes).

In 240 BCE a strange comet was seen in the sky. 

Finally, by 221 BCE, Emperor Shihuangdi, during the 26th year of his reign, completed the unification of China. He established the so-called Jun-Xian System, that is, the prefecture system. He listened to Li-Si, his prime minister, and established thirty-six so-called prefectures or commandaries (administrative areas, something like our states) broken down further into counties, townships, rings and lis in China. 

The same prime minister advised Ying Zheng to assume the title of Emperor, and the King did so (he used the ancient word for Emperor, huangdi). He was now more than a mere king, he was an August Emperor of a nation unified by sword and blood. He was the First Emperor, and his realm and dynasty, according to Ying Zhen’s plans, were to last thousands of years”¦ 

The Emperor believed in and promoted balance and order throughout his empire. 

His monetary policy included abolition of the currencies of the defeated states, and establishment of the Qin coins as the main currency of the land. Then the Emperor introduced the official script of Qin throughout China, and thus unified the written Chinese language. He also standardized weights and measures in China. 

Besides his great and bloody military conquest to unify China, he was known for other momentous projects: paving the straight highways (zhi dao) across the country, building and linking the Great Wall (the wall took 10 years to build at the rate of around mile of wall a day for the total of 3000 miles), digging of numerous canals to link up the water system; pavement of a road to Inner Mongolia; creation of a great southern highway (and building of the exclusively imperial roads). He conducted military campaigns against the Huns, and populated the newly created administrative units with convicts and slaves from other areas of China. But the Emperor also moved and resettled a number of wealthy Chinese to develop the city of Xianyang. As one of his reforms Shihuangdi abolished aristocracy. The new Emperor believed in meritocracy; personal abilities made someone to be a leader, not hereditary titles. 

In his campaigns throughout China and northern Vietnam, the Emperor relocated hundreds of thousands of people from various areas to the south of China. 

The Emperor believed in arms control: his subordinates collected and confiscated weapons from all over China, and melted them into huge statues. There were 12 of those bronze statues; curiously, they were made to resemble strange giant humanoid creatures sighted in 221 BCE in Lingtiao. He also personally inspected his realm on many occasions; he climbed mountains and organized expeditions to foreign lands to look for medical cures. 

Apparently Shihuangdi, who believed that he possessed deifying powers, was also interested in alchemy. He was looking for a way to have a long and healthy life, or better yet, to achieve immortality. That is why he sent expeditions on sea voyages to find the secret of immortality abroad. 

Yet Shihuangdi also knew that death may be coming, and ordered the construction of his tomb early during his reign. 

Li-Si was a powerful proponent of Legalism, a school of philosophy on how to run a state efficiently and ruthlessly, placing the welfare of the state above individuals and morals. And it was the completely opposite to Confucianism, the very foundation of Chinese society. In 213 BCE the Emperor outlawed the Confucian schools of thought, and ordered the burning of their books. Hundreds of Confucians were burned alive as well. Others, throughout China, were stoned to death. Ancient manuscripts, various historical records, and works of Asian classics were forever destroyed. Shihuangdi exercised the thought control by burning almost all classic works”¦but excluded books on medicine, divination and agriculture. Those who questioned his policies generally faced capital punishment (along with their relatives). A lesser punishment in store for them would be years of hard labor: connecting smaller, existing sections of the Great Wall of China and building huge stretches of roads to connect the empire. Philosophical debates were outlawed. Heretical scholars mixed with criminals and peasants in this Gulag of ancient China”¦Tyranny and oppression were the hallmarks of the short-lived dynasty.

Little wonder that China’s first peasant uprising took place in 209 BCE, after the emperor died.

Thus, Shihuangdi was a great Chinese emperor, an ambitious nation-builder, a cruel conqueror, a brutal and fearsome tyrant, and a seeker of knowledge. 

The death of the Emperor had an odd history of its own. Shihuangdi was just fifty years old when died from a sudden illness in 210 BCE, during a state inspection visit to one of the eastern prefectures. His trusted Prime Minister Li Si and a court official decided to hide the fact of the death from everyone, until the will of the Emperor could be changed. They covered his decaying body with salt to disguise the fact of Shihunangdi’s death, while helping his 18th son Huhai ascend to the throne through bloodshed and intrigues. After becoming the ruler of his late father’s empire, Huhai made sure his half-brothers and half-sisters were killed, so as no challenge to his rule would arise anywhere in the land. 

The dynasty did not last. It was all over for the Qin Empire in 206 BCE, when its last Emperor Zi Ying was killed in the bloody conflict and struggle for power. The old wise prime minister was cruelly murdered, too, betrayed by his former co-conspirator Zhao Gao. Massacres, chaos, mayhem, rule of criminal gangs and rebels, betrayals and bloodshed ensued. The royal palaces were looted and burned. Soldiers were sent to dig up the Emperor Shihuangdi’s tomb from the Lishan Mountains. We do not know what they removed from the tomb, and how they damaged it. In 202 BCE, after a four-year war between the rebel armies, the Han dynasty was established, and relative peace returned to the weary country.

Many years ago, while a teenager in the Soviet Union, I read a wonderful novel Tais of Athens, written by a superb Soviet scientist, explorer, writer and freethinker Ivan Efremov. He was an enigmatic person who had a life full of adventures, scientific discoveries, and clearly possessed knowledge of secrets of antiquity of India, China, Crete and other places. Where, for instance, did he find such intriguing information about the ancient Chinese mirror that basically was an x-ray machine used to diagnose disease (his novel Tais of Athens)? Years later and after my own extensive research I found more about the mirror, but Efremov knew about it back in the 1960s (or even earlier”¦).

Several sources refer to the “magic mirror” in ancient China that could illuminate the insides, organs and bones of the human body. This amazing device was obviously used to diagnose illnesses. This ancient X-ray machine illuminated the bones and organs of a patient’s body, giving a reversed image of it. And this “magic mirror” or an X-ray machine of antiquity belonged to Shihuangdi.

The Emperor looked for immortality, and sent out expeditions of young children and teenagers, under the command of Xu Fudong, to seek the fountain of youth.

Reportedly, Xu Fudong actually landed in Japan in 219 BCE, and stayed there; when his crew grew up, they populated the island nation. 

Ginseng is the vitamin-rich herb increases the body’s resistance to infections and is an effective treatment for cancer and people exposed to toxic substances; it is an ancient herb that is believed to prevent cancer, heal infections and cure impotence. Ancient Chinese legends tell the story of Shihuangdi’s failed quest for ginseng in the Far East taiga. According to the story, the Emperor in 200 BCE dispatched 6,000 of his best soldiers to harvest the herb and the entire expedition mysteriously disappeared.

Charles Gould published his book Mythical Monsters in London, England, in 1886 (W. H. Allen & Co.). He discussed mythical creatures, and attempted to demonstrate that there some legendary animals indeed existed. The author’s main emphasis was on the Orient, and dragons, sea serpents and the Chinese phoenix that populated ancient folklore of China.

An ancient Chinese book of mysterious origins (the Yih King) mentioned by Gould (as quotations from a comprehensive Chinese encyclopedia the Yuen Klei Lei Han, completed in 1710 CE) contained information about dragons and other very curious matters, whose meaning was not clear to most Chinese (or just those who possibly did not possess the necessary training). This book escaped the mass burning of Chinese historical books and records ordered by Emperor Shihuangdi in 213 BCE. According to the French researcher Monsieur de la Couperie (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society), the Yih King is the oldest of the Chinese classics and a mysterious book that requires prolonged attention to make it reveal its secrets. 

Those Chinese who had studied in Europe in the XIX century and who knew the Yih King, had claimed that information about electricity, steam power, astronomical laws, spheroid nature of Earth and many other sciences and matters were contained in the ancient book. There were secrets that the Chinese scholars hoped to unveil after applying to the study of their classics a thorough knowledge of modern sciences. Charles Gould, however, refused to accept the idea that there could be a possible connection “between their rude notions and our sciences”. “It is not a mysterious book of fates and prognostics, wrote Gould, but a valuable collection of documents of old antiquity”¦Perhaps Emperor Shihuangdi, who made sure the mysterious book was not to be burned with other collections of documents of old antiquity during as his atrocious policies demanded, knew how to read the book and unveil the secrets contained on its pages. Perhaps his magic mirror and the eternal illumination of the tomb were some of the secrets he unveiled.

What was the importance of the Book of Changes to Shihuangdi?

The Yih King (I Ching), or Book of Changes, may be one the oldest sacred texts in the world. It is one of our greatest treasures of wisdom on Earth. It is a most obscure, complex, and mysterious work of mental and moral philosophy and divination.

The book was written around 2850 BCE. It is the most widely read of the five Chinese Classics. The book has been of great interest to many people. One of them was dispatched to the Orient by a great French king.

Jean-Baptiste Regis was a Jesuit who was sent to China in 1698 at the age of thirty-five on a mission to study science and religion. He spent close to forty years in the Orient, and was instrumental in preparing the general map of China. Chinese Emperor K’ang-hi (1662-1722) was quite friendly to the Jesuits, and a number of important Chinese books and sources were open to them. Regis was one of a number of French Jesuits in the country; King Louis XIV sent a group of them there and they were engaged in astronomical observations and Chinese geographical, cartographical, and topographical research. They had received special training by scientists at the Paris Observatory, and used state-of-the art instruments. The Jesuits made a number of scientific expeditions throughout China, Tibet, Mongolia, Siberia and Manchuria; measured the Great Wall, and made excellent maps. Those who knew China well regarded their map of China to be a masterpiece. No matter how enticing, I will not describe the exploits of the French King’s missionaries in China. What is important here is that Jean-Baptiste Regis appreciated ancient Chinese books, and translated the Yih King. Julius Mol, in Stuttgart, edited the translation in 1864. The first volume contained Prologomena, a valuable and fascinating introduction to the classics of China.

Jean-Baptiste Regis died in Beijing in 1738. He played the most active role in making the map of China, a land that was still a mystery to Europeans in the XVII century. We really do not know what he learned in the Yih King, and how much it helped him in his endeavors on behalf of his order and the French King. 

I suspect the knowledge gained by Jean-Baptiste Regis is not lost, but is guarded. 

In pre-dynastic times, the mythical Five Emperors (Wu Ti) ruled China. The Five Emperors ruled in succession during the “golden age of antiquity” (prior to 2357 BCE) and have usually been considered sages and cultural heroes, if not semi-divine beings, by the Chinese. Hence we find that these Five Emperors; Fu Hsi (One who subdues Animals), Shen Nung (the Divine Farmer), Huang-Ti (the Yellow Emperor), Shao Hao, and Chuan Hsu, have each been credited with many inventions as far as 5,000 years ago. In August of 2001, FATE Magazine published my article about the Yellow Emperor, a legendary giver of knowledge. 

The author of the Yih King is the legendary Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (2953-2838 BCE).

This legendary t Emperor Fu Hsi (Fuxi) divined the truth of the Eight Trigrams. From the simplicity of yang and yin, light and dark (or, mathematically, 1 and 0), Emperor Fu Hsi conceived of eight possibilities. 

The mathematician and philosopher (as well as emperor) Fu Hsi is actually the first documented practitioner of binary combinatorial analysis. Attributed to Fu Hsi are combinations of throws, organized into trigrams. There are eight trigrams to which Fu Hsi assigned human and natural attributes. 

Fu Hsi paired the eight trigrams according to their opposites. Heaven is paired with earth, fire with water, mountain with lake, and wind with thunder. The Emperor observed how these pairs act upon each other. He arranged the trigrams in this early heavenly sequence with the opposites across from each other.

The eight trigrams: water, earth, thunder, wind, heaven, lake, mountain, and fire represent the primal energies of the universe. Each trigram is composed of three lines. The broken stroke symbol that indicates the “passive” force; this is called ”Yin”. The continuous stroke symbol that indicates the “active” force; it is called “Yang”. Grouping pairs of trigrams into hexagrams can make a total of sixty-four combinations.

Chinese King Wen produced the current groupings, based on patterns of trigram attributes, during his years spent as a political prisoner around 1150 BCE. King Wen attached judgments, i.e. rules, pronouncements, and hints, to each hexagram.

Confucius wrote additional text consisting of imagery that involves the trigram attributes that interact within each hexagram.

In Yih King (I Ching), lines, half lines, circle, and points represent abstract ideas. In Chinese literature, one of the sixty-four figures formed of six parallel lines (continuous or broken), forming the basis of the Yih King. The hexagrams were seen as the symbolic representations of various situations and circumstances one may encounter. To underscore the importance of the book, one need to understand that one cast of the I Ching can generate several different hexagrams, which adds depth to the interpretation. This four-valued logic has been compared to the biochemistry of DNA amino acids.

The Yih King’s significance in Chinese traditional culture, science, philosophy, and medicine is unsurpassed. It became the vessel of all archetypical possibility, but its primary function is that of divination. 

The Book of Changes is the classic textbook of the art of divination. In addition to the Yih King, divining blocks, drawing lots, temple oracles, and astrology are common forms of divination throughout the Orient.

Confucius (K’ung-tzu, 551-479 BCE.), or most likely one of his disciples, wrote appendices to the Yih King, and this passage, written around 500 B.C., describes his philosophy on numbers:

“The numbers belonging to heaven are five, and those belonging to earth are five. The numbers of these two series correspond to each other, and each one has another that may be considered its mate. The heavenly numbers amount to 25, and the earthly to 30. The numbers of heaven and earth together amount to 55. It is by these that the changes and transformations are effected and the spirit-like agencies kept in movement.”

There are several translations of the Yih King into English. One of the oldest is

The Yih-king: A new translation from the original Chinese, by Le Chevalier Charles Joseph de Harlez. The author, de Harlez, was Professor in the University of Louvain, Belgium. His book was translated into English from the French by J. P. Val d’Eremao, and published in the Oriental University Institute, 1896. 

What wonderful discoveries are in store for Chinese archeologists when they survey the mysterious Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in?

Paul Stonehill

Author of

The Soviet UFO Files (1998)

Co-author of

UFO-USSR (2005)

[email protected]

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