A herb is all that is needed to wake the terracotta army, give immortality to ruthless Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang

China's terracotta army
Terracotta warriors, which were unearthed during the first excavation from 1978 to 1984, Reuters

A mere herb can reward immortality and ancient myths and tales are an evidence of that. Pharaohs and other emperors were greedy not only for the acquisition of wealth but timelessness as well. Tales of ancient kings and Lords seeking immortality is not something new. From time immemorial, from ruthless monarchs to mere subjects, everyone sought for the elixir of life.

A recent archaeological finding has revealed that China's first monarch, who was also the creator of the terracotta army, was desperate to gain immortality. A set of wooden slips which was found in Hunan's central province possesses an executive order from Emperor Qin Shihuang, where he had made it compulsory to search for the elixir of life. Interestingly local governments did reciprocate the order and even reached frontier regions and remote villages, stated Zhang Chunlong, a researcher at the provincial institute of archaeology.

The 36,000 wooden slips that were found in 2002 contains the imperial order given by the emperor to find the elixir of life. A village called Duxiang had failed to discover the miraculous potion whereas a place called Langya declared that if a particular herb can be collected from a nearby "auspicious" local mountain then the task of immortality might be achieved, reports Xinhua news agency. As interesting as it gets, this herb, therefore, might be able to bring back Qin Shihuang's terracotta army to life.

China's terracotta army
Copies of Terracotta warrior figures are displayed as part of the exhibition 'Terracotta Army' Reuters

Qin Shihuang was obsessed with eternal life and this obsession led to the formation of the grand underground mausoleum or the terracotta army. The army was built to protect the king in his afterlife. In 1974, workers digging a well outside the city of Xi'an situated in China discovered these life-sized clay soldiers.

The terracotta army seems to be ready for battle and was positioned according to their rank. The soldiers stand in a trenchlike underground corridor some of which also contains wooden chariots. Till date, four pits have been excavated and the fourth one lies empty. 8,000 figures have been found but more might exist.

China's terracotta army
An archaeologist removes earth from the face of a newly found terracotta warrior at the excavation site inside the No. 1 pit of the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses Reuters

Few pits around the tomb contain dancers, musicians, acrobats, in other words, the construction is a microcosm of the emperor's entire court. According to Chinese archaeologists, an underground chamber containing four stairlike walls may have been built for the soul of the emperor. Further excavations of the tomb have been kept on hold as a researcher from the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute Duan Qinbao believes "It is best to keep the ancient tomb untouched."

Qin Shihuang's quest for immortality went in vain as he died in 210 BC. The Qin dynasty is known for its ruthless regime, burning books and executing the literati. The dynasty also led to the formation of a unified China.