China's Terracotta Army Gets Dose of Modern Medicine
After surviving 2,200 years underground, China's famed terracotta army is now being attacked by more than 40 varieties of mold, perhaps it's most formidable enemy ever.
The mold has begun destroying some 1,400 of the 8,000 excavated statues of warriors and horses discovered in an underground tomb in the ancient city of Xian in Northwestern China.
Reports blame the mold problem on the elevated temperatures and humidity in the building that protects the archaeology dig. Thousands of tourists who visit the site weekly account for the large variety of molds as they introduce all types of fungi spores from around the world to the building's humid environment.
Authorities have called in an anti-fungal treatment research specialist from a Belgium pharmaceutical company to help clear up the warriors' rot, thus giving the ancient relics a dose of modern medicine.
Unearthed in 1974 by peasants digging a well, the life-sized army, complete with archers, infantrymen, charioteers and horses is often called the Eighth Wonder of the World, and is one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.
Archaeologists believe the nearly 8,000 figures uncovered so far may be just a portion of a larger army still buried underground near the tomb of Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC), who is known as China's first emperor.
According to China Daily, Qin, who created the first unified Chinese empire around 220 BC, is regarded as one of the country's most ruthless rulers. The terracotta army was buried around his tomb to protect him in the afterlife. Several hundred thousand workers spent 36 years building the tomb, which the Emperor, at the age of 13, ordered to be built shortly after he ascended the throne. Laborers who worked on the tomb and childless concubines were interred with him to safeguard its secrets. But his dynasty collapsed shortly after his death.
©Reprinted from Winter 2000 issue of Qi Journal