The 50 Things You Must Do in Asia

By Hanya Yanagihara - 2013-07-23T16:27:10Z

Photograph by John Henshall/Alamy

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Be Awestruck by the Terra-Cotta Warriors: China

China's first ruler, the great emperor Qin Shi Huang, not only began construction on the Great Wall, but he's also responsible for the terra-cotta warriors of Xi'an. Shi Huang's secret remained just that until 1974, when three local farmers were digging a well and came across stone body parts. They reported it to their local official, and no sooner could you say, "Sorry, Shi Huang," than the eighth wonder of the world was discovered. But the emperor may have the last laugh: The terra-cotta warriors are in fact not part of his official tomb. They're an adjunct to it. The official tomb is about a mile away from the warrior site, and writings from that time record it as having mountains of jade and rivers of mercury, atop which the emperor's body could float forevermore. And, indeed, recent soil testing confirms high levels of mercury in the soil around the tomb (which is the largest in the world: about 22 square miles). However, given mercury's toxicity—and, again, the lack of proper technology—the government has stopped excavation work in the area. Which means, of course, that there may be a ninth wonder of the world yet to be unearthed.

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