Why Don’t They Excavate the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum?

Being the first, largest and richest imperial mausoleum in Chinese history, the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang contain a large amount of precious cultural relics, such as silk, fresco and paintings according to the historical records. Why don’t they excavate the mausoleum to see these precious relics? There are several main reasons as follows: 

Limited Excavating & Researching Ability

Mature preservation and research techniques of cultural relics are indispensable requirements and premises to unearth the grave. A series of exploration, excavation and restoration techniques are also needed for the digging. No one can ensure to avoid mistakes and losses during the process because there are no relevant excavating experience and precedents in Chinese history. 

For instance, in order to protect and collect every piece of the cultural relics, bulldozers, excavating machines and explosives are prohibited during excavation, while the manual excavation may last quite a long time. Therefore, a giant shelter is necessary to defend the site from the wind and rain. However, covered by shelter, visitors cannot appreciate the surrounding magnificent landscape. 

Besides, the mausoleum consists of two parts, the mound above ground and the grave underground. It is impossible to dig a hole or several holes to enter the underground grave for large-scale excavation. The only way is to move off large area of the ground mound, and then the nonrenewable historical mound will disappear because of that.

The Mausoleum is Too Deep to Be Excavated and Viewed Easily

After archeological exploration, the grave of the First Qin Emperor is about 35 meters (38 yards) deep from ground level. Tourists can see the terracotta warrior pits clearly for the shallow depth of 3-5 meters (3.3-5.5 yards), but the grave is too deep to unearth and view with ease because landslide may be caused when excavating if the grave is built with soil walls like terracotta warriors pits. 

Excavating Work May Take Long Time

Archeologists have spent nearly 30 years to excavate about one third of the terracotta warriors pits. The area of Qin Shi Huang mausoleum is about thirteen times as much as the pits’, and it is uncertain to say how many years it will take to complete the excavating work on mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. 

Immature Protection Technology on Unearthed Cultural Relics

Many people hold the attitude that the mausoleum should not be excavated, because the present technology cannot protect the cultural relics buried in the tomb. The silk, fresco and paintings are the most difficult to be well preserved. For example, the lacquer coffin and colorful paintings discovered in Mawangdui Han Tombs cannot remain as bright and complete as before when unearthed. The preservation techniques cannot effectively satisfy the requirement for protecting the underground grave, either. In a sense, the excavation is equivalent to damage.

Big Investments Are Required

It is estimated that excavating the massive Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum will need a lot of manpower and resources, and it’s difficult to start or continue the work without enough financial support. 

Flowing Mercury Inside the Mausoleum May Poison People and Pollute the Environment

A large amount of mercury was detected underground the grave. It can hurt the archaeologists when they entering the tomb. Besides, once the mercury leak out, it may cause serious environmental pollution. 

What Is Buried inside Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum?

In the book of the Historical Records written by Sima Qian, the underground palace of the mausoleum is described like this: the tomb chamber was full of rare treasure collected from all the country and the states once he conquered. The inside lakes, rivers and seas were made up of flowing mercury. The legendary luminous pearls decorated on the dome of the tomb were the symbolization of the sun, the moon and the stars. In order to protect the tomb from being disturbed, the booby-trap arrows were installed to kill any daring intruder. 

Is the Underground Mausoleum Destroyed by Grave Robbers?

The answer should be “no”. The large amount of mercury around or in the mausoleum tells that the “underground palace” should be sealed as before. If it is once disturbed by grave robbers, the mercury would volatilize through the holes. In addition, there are no digging trances on the current found passages leading to the mausoleum. Of course, this is just a guess and the true answer will not be released until the day the mausoleum is excavated. 

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