Friday, 12 October 2012

Magazine part 3- Qin Shihuan

The first Emperor of China, so influential that the country is named after him, tried to gain eternal life but died because he took mercury pills.

"Qin Shihuan was buried in a tomb accompanied by an army of hundreds of thousands of terracotta soldiers in present-day Xian. The tomb was uncovered by a farmers digging for a well in 1974. The Emperor had been obsessed with immortality and spent years trying to find an elixir to life. While physical immortality was never achieved, it would seem Qin’s quest for to live forever was ultimately granted – his policies and legacy are practiced and remembered in China today."

That story has parallels in today's search for anti-ageing creams. We may snigger that Qin would happily swallow poison in the belief it would extend his lifespan, but people today also shell out for anti-wrinkle, time-slowing, rolling-back-the-years moisturisers, others exercise and diet excessively to prevent heart disease (only to die of a heart attack from the stress, probably), so what has changed?

Interestingly, the taoist train of thought that led to alchemy and finding the elixir of life was originally about scepticism, that the world around is an illusion and nothing can be known about the world. In folklore, the ones who reach this truth become immortals.
(that's my understanding of it anyway)

Luckily for the sake of quick and effective visual communication, not only is chinese and taoist culture very visually distinctive, Qin himself has a few markers about him:

  • the mercury he took
  • burning books
  • the great wall of china
  • the terracotta army
What a guy. He's the parallel to our end of time, to represent the eternal search for eternity. At least, living for eternity.

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