Emperor’s army continues to stand tall today

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Dispatches by Herb Peppard

Many civilizations through the ages believed in an afterlife.

Not a spiritual afterlife but a real everyday life. That was the reason that all things precious and necessary were buried in the tomb with them. Egypt especially was a firm believer of an afterlife. You can see this in the monumental pyramids and the many tombs all across Egypt.

I went to Egypt with my two brothers, Bill and Albert, in 2007. What a wonderful trip. The experience that really impressed me was seeing a tomb within the second largest pyramid in the world. Imagine, walking inside this huge historical structure built more than 2,000 years ago. The route we took was a narrow tunnel that did not have much head room. In fact, there was a sign warning you to keep your head down. Of course I saw the sign too late and I hit my head pretty hard, causing an injury that left a mark visible for about two months.

Imagine walking in this man-made tunnel with thousands of tons of stone pushing down on you. Well, I tried not to think of these things as we wound our way through the passage.

Finally the tunnel came to an end and we entered a huge empty space. Our guide told us this was a tomb used more than 2,000 years before, and probably many funerals had taken place here. It was a strange feeling being enclosed in this huge quiet tomb and not a sound to be heard.

As I left this structure I thought to myself, “Surely, this must have been the only civilization that honoured death like this. No other people believed that after death they would return to an ordinary life.”

However, I was wrong.  A few years later I visited the strange and marvelous country of China. My soul purpose of visiting that country was to climb that marvelous, unbelievable Wall of China. I felt fortunate to complete this wonderful adventure. To our surprise and delight, our tour group was taken to another wonder of this marvelous world of ours. We visited Xian, in Shanai province in the center of China. What we saw there was something amazing and unbelievable.

Apparently the great and powerful emperor,          Qin Shi Huang, 2,000 years ago, believed in an afterlife. So, in his tomb he wanted an army of soldiers to protect him forever. For 11 years the people of China worked on this amazing project. The soldiers and horses were made of clay (terracotta) and made to look as natural as possible. Their responsibility was to guard the emperor from all harm. The soldiers were all about six-feet tall, and dressed in military uniforms. It is estimated there is still 8,000 to be unearthed, they have uncovered 1,000 already. Beside soldiers, there are horses, chariots and weapons. The weapons, such as swords, bows and arrows and knives, are real.

When I first walked into this graveyard a strange feeling came over me. It was a feeling that I should be still, reverent and quiet. As I looked at these soldiers standing in military formation they seemed to take on a look of faith, dedication and determination. It seemed as if they realized they were defending their emperor, and for this cause no sacrifice could be too great.

This tomb was discovered in 1974 when four farmers were digging a well and they brought up some terracotta. This find is now classed as one of the great wonders of the world.

Many years after this trip, I’d have flashbacks of Emperor Qin and his unusual burial site.

However, the picture that stands out most of all for me is the soldiers standing proud and tall. They’re defending their Emperor no matter what befalls them.

This is a job they will continue to carry on forever.


Herb Peppard is a longtime Truro resident. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.

Organizations: Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Egypt, China, Xian Shanai Truro

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