The Terracotta Army

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Please don’t make me an army when I die.

On a recent trip to Chicago, I visited The Field Museum to see a few of Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta warriors. They were impressive. I mean, really. I was in a room with about ten of these figures and they were stunning, though I’m not sure they did their job.

Qin became the first emperor of China in 247 BCE. During his reign, he unified exiting state walls to create the Great Wall of China and created a national road system. But, he’s probably best known these days for the massive army of terracotta statues found in his mausoleum.

In 1974, some farmers in Shaanxi province were digging a well, when they stumbled on the horde. Archaeologists were brought in and the excavation began. Recent estimates indicate there may be as many as 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 670 horses. All of these were life size, fully armed, and they were found occupying offices, stables, halls, and other structures. There were also figures of exotic animals, acrobats, and strongmen. More than 700,000 workers were involved in the project. Most, if not all, of these were criminals sentenced to hard labor. Many of them died on the job.

I’m sure everyone involved thought providing for the emperor’s protection in the afterlife was a noble pursuit. The thing is, most of the warriors’ weapons were stolen more than 1,000 years ago, before the army fell out of common knowledge.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t spend a bunch of time, money, and lives on things you won’t be around to enjoy. Someone’s just going to steal it when you’re not there to care.

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