In China, there exists an astonishing place. A burial ground to rival Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, where pyramid tombs of stupendous size are full of astonishing riches. In 221 BC, China's first Emperor united warring kingdoms into a nation that still exists today. To memorialise this achievement, he bankrupted the national treasury and oppressed thousands of workers to build one of the world’s biggest mortuary complexes. China's second dynasty, the Han, inherited the daunting challenge of building larger tombs to command respect and establish their right to rule without running the nation into the ground. Although no Han emperor's tomb has been opened, the tombs of lesser Han aristocrats have revealed astonishing things: complete underground palaces (including kitchens and toilets) and at least one corpse so amazingly well-preserved some believe Han tomb-builders knew how to "engineer immortality". But most tombs were robbed, leaving another dynasty hundreds of years later – the brilliant Tang – to lead a revolution in tomb design, tunnelling simple shaft-tombs into natural mountains and filling them with small, inexpensive grave goods that symbolised more than reproduced the perfect afterlife.
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