Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the burial complex is what it suggests about the young Emperor’s obsession with immortality.
Driven to conquer death itself, the eventual First Emperor ascended to the throne of the Qin state at age of 13 and immediately began to plan his burial, and more importantly, his underground palace, a mausoleum attended by an army including over 7,000 terracotta warriors horses, chariots and weaponry intended to protect him in the afterlife. The First Emperor envisioned a subterranean domain that would parallel his worldly existence after corporal death.
According to Han-dynasty historian Sima Qian, the First Emperor lined his burial complex with a treasury of riches and piles of precious gemstones said to represent the stars, sun and moon. He was deeply concerned with the universe and looked to the cosmos as a guide for crossing over to an immortal existence.
Excavation also revealed other mysterious findings, like strangely high levels of mercury and evidence that the poisonous substance coursed through an intricate system of underground troughs, replicating the topography of the actual rivers and seas carving the surrounding landscape. Some suggest that the emperor believed mercury had life-giving power and so surrounded himself with the toxic element, believing it was yet another way he might live forever. While the initial excavations tell us much about this fascinating character, such mysteries surrounding his true beliefs and intentions abound.