Why is there so much fear of opening the tomb of China's first emperor?




Eliana Yang

Cracking open the tomb could come with much more immediate and deadly dangers too. In an account written by ancient Chinese historian Sima Qian




Derek W London

The major problem is the historical record of the rivers of murcury and the lake of liquid murcury within which the sarcophagus of the first great emperor was placed that were incorporated into the inner sanctum of the vast tomb “city".

The extreme toxcity of murcury makes any incursion extremely hazardous regardless of it's association with eternal life in ancient history.





Peter Ole Kvint

Because the grave has obviously been thoroughly looted by all the people who lacked money. How many treasure hunters have lived in the last 2200 years?

If there is anything to be found, it is preserved with mercury. And no one knows how to treat it.





Jonathan Carlson

Well, contrary to what you might think, it has nothing to do with fearing something like this:

Instead, archaeologists and anthropologists “fear” not having the ability to preserve artifacts. This might seem a bit strange to you, but you’ve got to understand that those artifacts that are within his tomb have not been exposed to the air in over 2000 years.

Let’s look at Egypt as an example. Sure, there is quite a bit of art that has survived, and some of the pigments they used have survived, but just look at this, from the wall of the Temple of Dendur:




A quick glance at this, and you would probably say that it’s typical Egyptian art, right? Well, take a look at this:



This is a projection that overlays the original carving. It is showing how the art originally looked before being exposed to the air in modern times. And, for the record, this temple was created about 200 years after the tomb of Qin Shi Huang.


And it is known that this is not unique. Take a look at the famous Terracotta Warriors - which were built to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang:



I’m sure you’ve seen pictures or reproductions of these before - they’re quite famous. But here’s something that a lot of people don’t know:

They were originally painted with extremely vibrant colors! In fact, on a few of the actual statues, you can see slight traces of the original pigments used:




The problem is that it’s extremely difficult to preserve this art, since the moment the pigments come in contact with oxygen, they begin to fade and disappear. It happens shockingly fast.


This is what the fear is - such an important archaeological site could be irreparably damaged simply be opening the door. In an ideal world, the whole of the tomb would probably be encased in a giant glass sphere (including excavating down under the tomb) in order to create a vacuum, or near vacuum, in which archaeologists could excavate, by wearing space suits or something similar. But, let’s face it, that’s a ridiculous thought. The simplest way to put it is that we lack the technology to properly preserve what’s inside. Hopefully a solution will be invented in our lifetimes, so we can see what’s inside.



Dang Yu'ang


Why won't the chinese open the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor?

Originally Answered: Why wont the chinese open the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor?

When they were first found in the tomb, they were colored, and after only a few minutes of contact with the air, they began to fade and soon lost their colour completely. All the terra-cotta warriors you see have gone through the whole process. The terra-cotta warriors and horses are just one of the mysteries of qin shi huang's tomb. There are too many secrets. Humans don't have enough technology to protect them. So the researchers of qin shihuang mausoleum gave up this huge temptation. They hope that future humans will have good enough technology to protect all the secrets of qin shihuang's tomb rather than destroy them.





Aaron Cai


What is a good estimate of when the Chinese will open the tomb of the 1st emperor?

Agree with Colin Shu, probably never. That's the best way of protecting it.

Given the scale of the i'an Terracotta Army

and records of the 1st Empeor's funeral from ancient books, historians and archaeologists believe there are remarkable amount of treasures and extraordinary acrhitectural design of the tomb.

The QinShihuang's Tomb, made by arhaeologists.


我同意Colin Shu的观点,他们可能永远都不会这么做。这就是保护秦始皇陵的最好办法。



They also believe, there is no way we can unearth the tomb without causing any irreparable damages giving the status of modern technology. The funeral objects buried inside were sealed from the outside, they have been kept in a steady circumstance with steady temperature, moisture, air pressure and without light for thousands of years.


Actually, unearthing the Qin Shihuang's tomb caused a lot of well-known arguments in the past. The well-known scholar Guo Moruo/郭沫若 applied more than once to dig up some emperor's tombs and got approved once, but archaeologists finally got called off about their applications by Prime Minister Zhou, especially the application for digging Qin Shihuang's tomb. Prime Minister Zhou took the experts's (of State Administration of Cultural Heritage) ideas that unearthing the ancient tombs would cause more damages than make any good. After that, central government issued serials of bans against unearthing ancient tombs.




Yugan Talovich


Why won't the chinese open the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor?

Originally Answered: Why wont the chinese open the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor?

Think of the responsibility of opening this tomb! There must be countless treasures within, but there are also countless problems involved in opening a tomb that has been still for over two thousand years.



The fear is that with today’s technology, opening the tomb and exposing the contents to today’s environment may destroy things and lose irreplaceable artifacts and facts (by facts, I mean more intangible facts we can learn from. The terra cotta figures were originally colored, but the colors faded quickly once that pit was opened, some before the details could be recorded, which means knowledge lost forever.)


Have you noticed that Chinese are patient, and take the long term view? The idea is, the tomb has been there for a long time, it’ll keep another couple decades or generations or centuries until it can be opened safely. In the meantime, there’s more than enough to study from what has already been opened.




Pun Anansakunwat


Why isn't the tomb of Qin Shi Huang explored?

Chinese authorities did try to explore the tomb.

However, they stopped, because they did not have the technology to preserve the objects inside.




For example, the terracotta army used to be colorful, as they were painted with various pigments since antiquity.

The bright color of the terracotta army disappeared after these statues exposed with today’s air. It turned gray. Chinese authorities then stopped the excavation completely, because they did not want to destroy these valuables inside the tomb.






Leo Ong


Why won't the chinese open the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor?

Originally Answered: Why wont the chinese open the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor?

There are many reasons to this but the main ones are as follows :

air quality in the tomb is believed to be different from the current air quality and opening the tomb can result in either one or both of the following:A) disintegration/ decay of some of the paints/ colorings or worse still, a large part of the tomb itself. B) possible presence of virus which may be deadly( similar to the case of Tutankhamen )

Possible presence of deadly defense mechanisms which can deem it difficult for anyone who goes inside the tomb.

Japanese and American specialists have offered their services to the chinese but in return, they want to have a portion of the tomb or something along these lines . However, this will not be possible in China as such tombs are classified as National Treasures.

There is also the presence of mercury in the tomb, which is used to simulate rivers and lakes in the afterlife of Qin Shi Huang. This can also prove toxc and lethal to whoever enters the tomb.







There are many more reasons to why but the above are the general reasons for now.


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