Archaeologists find the ‘Elixir of Life’ in an ancient Chinese tomb


A team of archaeologists excavating at the Chinese province of Henan says that a liquid found in a bronze vessel sealed in a tomb of the Western Han dynasty, Luoyang city, is an elixir of immortality, according to the ancient Taoist literature.

Up to 3.5 liters of the elixir was found inside the container, which once belonged to a noble family, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

At first, the archaeologists thought that the liquid they had stumbled upon was a mixture of rice wine because of its strong alcoholic odor. It has been reported that other tombs dating from the same dynasty (202 BC-8 AD) have been found to contain similar liquids which were very important during funerary rites in ancient time.

The tomb, which covers 210 square meters was home to a large number of color-painted pots, jade ware, as well as many different artifacts which experts successfully cataloged and recovered.

As noted by Xinhua, the remains of the tomb’s occupants have also been preserved.

However, after the substance analyzed it was revealed that the liquid was a mixture of potassium nitrate and alunite, two of the alleged ingredients needed to create the elixir of immortality according to the ancient Taoist texts, explains Pan Fusheng, the chief archaeologist of the excavation.

“The tomb provides valuable material for the study of the life of Western Han nobles as well as the funeral rituals and customs of the period,” Pan said.

In addition, the seal of the bottle where the liquid was kept was found intact, which prevented the elixir from evaporating for more than 2,000 years.

The discovery is of great importance say experts.

“It is the first time that mythical ‘immortality medicines’ have been found in China,” said Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Luoyang.

“The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thoughts on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilization,” Shi added.

In ancient times, elixirs of life or elixirs of immortality were potions that allegedly granted the person who drank it eternal life as well as eternal youth.

The alleged potion is said to also be able to cure all diseases and many alchemists of the pasts in various cultures searched for the formula to create the elixir.

Ancient China is famous for emperors who sought the legendary elixir.

For example, in the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang sent Taoist alchemist Xu Fu with 500 young men and 500 young women to the eastern seas in order to find the elixir. However, he never came back.


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