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Necktie wearing terracotta soldierShih Huang Ti's, necktie wearing, terracotta soldiers: 221 B.C.
It was a humid September morning in 1974 when a group of Chinese peasants set out for a hillock in the fields near the ancient capital city of Xi'an to dig a new well. They only had one thought in their minds, to find a new source of clean water for their village, which they could drink safely and use to irrigate their crops. They neither wanted nor expected to find anything else under Mount Li, and when one pick struck clean through a layer of stone and opened the way into a hidden cavern, they merely hoped that they had discovered an underground river.
In fact, they had stumbled on the tomb of China's first emperor, Shih Huang Ti, containing the world famous "terracotta army" arid evidence of the first known necktie. Under the rubble and mud in the vault they had opened lay some 7,500 of the emperor's sculptured soldiers, each wearing a carefully wrapped neck cloth.
Shih Huang Ti, alternatively known as Qin Shi Huangdi, was a warlord who had succeeded in unifying China and founding the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. He was a fierce arid ambitious man who relished battle and thought nothing of forcibly recruiting millions of his countrymen to build the Great Wall and the network of roads, which allowed his troops to move quickly around his empire. But he was afraid of one thing, death. He did his best to find some way of avoiding it, sending messengers to Tibet and India in search of a miraculous elixir that would allow him to stay on his throne forever.
Finally, when he realized that he would inevitably die like other men, he began to build a magnificent tomb near his capital city. At first, he intended to slaughter an entire army, who would then accompany him through eternity, but he was eventually persuaded to make do with their life-sized replicas modeled in terracotta. The greatest sculptors and artists from every province in China were summoned to create this massive monument to one man's fear and folly, and were set to work forming legions of archers, horsemen, foot soldiers and officers. Each figure was unique, and every detail of armor, hair and costume was reproduced meticulously. And when Shih Huang Ti died in 210 B.C. during a routine round of inspection, he was placed in this extraordinary mausoleum and forgotten.
What is remarkable about the discovery of the 7,500 soldiers wearing their 7,500 neck cloths is that no other pictures or statues of Chinese or, indeed, of any other people would show any evidence of neck cloths for centuries to come.
Chinese looms of that period were certainly able to weave silk of the right width for the neck cloths worn by the terracotta army. Records show that in 16 B.C., during the reign of Ch'eng Ti, the frontier garrison was given one million rolls of silk 32 feet 9 inches (10 m) long and 1 foot 8 inches (53 cm) wide. But only Shih Huang Ti's personal guards seem to have wrapped material around their necks. Why should they have done something so bizarre?