‘Elixir of immortality’ discovered in ancient Chinese tomb

Xu Fu’s voyage in search of the Elixir of life. © Wikipedia
3 Mar, 2019
 
Archaeologists have announced the discovery of a drink that was said to promise everlasting life. It was found secretly stowed away in a 2,000-year-old bronze pot in an ancient tomb in central China’s Henan province.

Around 3.5 litres of the “elixir of immortality” were found in the tomb in the city of Luoyang during excavations last October. It was initially thought that the liquid was liquor because it smelled like alcohol.

However, it was announced this week that, lab testing has revealed that the mysterious liquid is mainly comprised of potassium nitrate and alunite, which are the main ingredients of an immortality draught recorded in an ancient Taoist text.

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According to Xinhua, the magical elixir was found in a tomb belonging to a noble family from the Western Han Dynasty that dates back to between 202 BC to 8 AD. The family clearly placed a very high value on the elixir as they deemed it worthy of sharing their final resting place.

Potions that promised immortality were something of an obsession in ancient Chinese history, the most famous example being court sorcerer Xu Fu’s two voyages in search of the elixir during the Qin Dynasty, however this is the first time that a sample of such liquid has been discovered intact.

“It is the first time that mythical ‘immortality medicines’ have been found in China. The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thoughts on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilization,” Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Luoyang, explained.

The ancient tomb covers over 200 square meters and, as well as the elixir, its excavators also unearthed jadeware, bronze artifacts and painted clay pots.

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