QIN SHIHUANG TOMB COMPLEX, Shaanxi Province, China, QIN DYNASTY (221-206 BCE), PHOTO © ARALDO DE LUCA – TAASA Review March 2011


This article was originally found in the March 2011 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 20, Issue 1, Page 25).

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sufficient in the afterworld to provide for the needs of the spirits. We know that the First Emperor was inordinately preoccupied, even obsessed, with life beyond the grave, consulting diviners and shamans, sending expeditions to the eastern sea in search of the Penglai islands, then held to be the gateway to the land of the immortals, and travelling to the five sacred mountains of the empire to perform rituals and leave stone commemorations designed, in part, to secure his own immortality.

Jessica Rawson (Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, Merton College, Oxford) likened the mausoleum itself to a giant doll’s house, replicating the real world to create a place where the Emperor would be safe to amuse himself for eternity.

But how could inanimate models step into the next life with the Emperor as living beings to serve him? Professor Rawson’s answer was that the Emperor must have believed that the act of creating these replicas brought their spirit into existence...