“not To feel the horrible burden of Time that breaks your shoulders and you lean toward the earth, you must get drunk without respite.” Charles Baudelaire had he found the recipe for the potion of immortality of the emperor Qin Shi Huang? In a burial of 210 square meters dating from the western han dynasty, between 202 bc and the year 8 bc, archaeologists have discovered a yellowish liquid in a pot in bronze. Was it the wine, as they have first believed because of her perfume? Not at all, as reported by the magazine Geo. Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of archaeology and cultural relics, the city of Luoyang, has analyzed the substance. The results indicate that it is an “elixir of immortality”. Because according to Pan Fusheng, an archaeologist at the head of the excavation project, the potassium nitrate and the aluminum sulfate found in 3.5 liters of fluid are the ingredients described in ancient taoist texts.

“This is the first time that the “medicines of immortality” mythical are found in China,” said Shi Jiazhen to the news agency Xinhua. “The liquid is of a important value in the study of the quest for immortality of the Chinese of the era and the evolution of the chinese civilization”, he adds. For the moment, it is unknown whether it was really consumed, or simply deposited in the tombs. The question is not trivial: it is ingested, potassium nitrate can cause gastroenteritis, an infection of the kidneys or cancer.

Qin Shi Huang, an emperor obsessed with eternal life

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, was renowned for his thirst for immortality. Haunted by death, it has constructed near Xi’an, mausoleum of 56 km2, comprised of over 7000 terracotta statues of soldiers and horses, to ensure its protection in the afterlife. In 2017, archaeologists discover even the emperor, dead at the age of 49 in 210 av J.-C, had made the quest for eternal life, a national priority. On slats of bamboo, the scientists have discovered, messages of the governors and local officials, addressed to the unifier of China, revealing their failures in the formula of the potion miracle.

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Qin Shi Huang is not the only one to fight against the Great Reaper. Twenty-five centuries later, the PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is investing millions of dollars in the fight against aging through start-ups and companies whose objectives are to increase the shelf life and retard old age. As the co-founder of Google, Larry Page, it has launched in 2013 a company called Calico, aimed to “kill” death.