[FOUNTAIN]The source of pollution?Very few ancient Chinese tombs remain untouched by robbers. However, the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in Xian has remained unopened for more than 2,200 years. There were robbery attempts. According to “Hanshu,” or the “Book of Han,” Liu Bang listed 10 sins of Xiang Yu, the fourth being that he had opened the tomb of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty and personally appropriated the treasures. There also is a record that the gangs who started the Rebellion of Huang Chao had robbed the tomb of Qin Shi Huang.
However, Chinese archeologists concluded after a more than 10-year investigation that there had been only two attempts to rob the tomb during the Song Dynasty. One of the reasons scholars believe the tomb was unopened is the uniform distribution of mercury in the underground palace. They argue that it means there has never been an intrusion from outside.
According to “Shiji,” or “The Record of the Great Historian,” a large amount of mercury was poured into the underground palace when the tomb of Qin Shi Huang was constructed. Mercury was supposed to represent the rivers, lakes and seas over which the emperor had ruled. Such a design was possible because mercury is the only metal that exists in liquid form at normal temperatures. The other purpose was to prevent the tomb from being looted, because when mercury in a vacuum comes in contact with air, it evaporates and produces a poisonous gas.
Recently, Koreans have been shocked to learn that the mercury contamination of the Korean Peninsula is very serious. The natural density of mercury in the atmosphere is 1.2 nanograms per cubic meter, which is one billionth of a gram.
However, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research’s report expressed concern over the mercury density around the Korean Peninsula; measured at a high of 6.34 nanograms per cubic meter in the skies over the western coast of Jeju Island. The culprit for the high mercury particle density is air pollution carried by the wind from China, which accounts for 25 percent of world coal consumption.
Chinese people say, “A good man does not come, and the one who comes is not good.” From fish contaminated with lead to the parasites in kimchi to the mercury air pollution, it is a pity that China is constantly named as being responsible for the controversies.
This year, the trade volume between Korea and China is expected to break $100 billion. It is regrettable that the relationship between the two countries is not befitting the volume of trade.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.