Friday, June 8, 2012

Terra cotta army, archeology and spirituality

First Qin Emperor's terra cotta army is a magnificent archeological find.  People are amazed at the scope and detail executions of the each individual terra cotta warrior, coming almost alive individually and impressively powerful and intimidating even to the spirits of the underworld.  Intimidation and continual killing was the whole theme of Qin's grand project.  Having overthrown and slaughtered the royal families and their armies and supporters of six contending states, Qin did has his reason to fear: revenge from spirits in the underworld, from all those innocent (and not so innocent) people he had ultimate responsibility for killing.  He was fearless, and he started his grand project immediately after he conquered the whole middle kingdom at age thirteen, an age most kids would still be flying kites in the old days!

No matter how grand this project was, I believed it was only his plan B.  What was his plan A?  He wanted to live and rule the middle kingdom forever.  During his rule, he devoted a lot of energy and effort trying to get hold of the elixir of life that would bring him physical immortality so that he would never need to confront aggrieved and angry spirits waiting for an opportunity of  revenge in the underworld .  Unlike emperors in the latter dynasty of Tang who died young from heavy metal poisoning in search of immortality , Qin was more carefully, he managed to survive, and ultimately executed all alchemists (方士) who failed to deliver him the promised elixir of immortality.  Qin's last attempt was to put the trust on an alchemist called Xufu (徐福) who promised him to search for the elixir of immortality from a fairy land reachable by sailing East.  Bring with him loads of treasures and hundreds of young men and women, Xu sailed East, reached Japan, jump-started the civilization there and never came back (please refer to my previous post: The hidden secret of Immortality of the external alchemists for details of Xu's story).

I find it interesting to compare the grand archeological find of Qin's terra cotta army with the lesser known one in the Lai Feng Tower (雷鋒塔) by the lake side of the most famous and beautiful West Lake (西湖) of Hangzhou (杭州).  The temple was built by Emperor Qian (钱镠) in the early Sung Dynasty.  In consolidating his power, the emperor killed thousands of people (which is a minute number in comparison with what First Qin Emperor did).  In order to placate the aggrieved souls, him a Buddhist, the emperor hid copies of carved sacred Buddhist texts inside individual bricks of the Tower. 

We do have a choice, if that is the only thing archeology can teach us.

Terra cotta warriors
Lei Feng Tower in West Lake

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