Over 2,000 year ago a brutal time of war became a splendid time of wealth. Lords and ladies lived it up in luxury. They wanted to go on forever and some of them did. China is one of the world's oldest civilizations and a modern economic juggernaut.
Day and night bulldozers churn up its ancient soil, carving out the foundations of China's future, uncovering an incredible mystery of its past.
No one's found anything remotely equivalent to this. There's nothing else like them anywhere in the world. How did people who died 2,000 years ago become what may be the best preserved ancient bodies ever found? They look like living people. They move like living people. When you look at their intestines and other internal organs they're about as close as you get to a well preserved fresh body today.
Who was the woman that many have called the world's most perfect mummy? This is something you never even find in Egypt. Tutankhamun, for example, comes out as sort of shriveled up little desecrated corpse compared to the extraordinary preservation of this woman. Throughout life they thought of little else then continuing life after death. There was a consensus that immortality was there to be taken if only you could get the formula right.
In 1972, China isn't yet the economic powerhouse we see today. It's the time of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. China's leader calls on devoted youths, named Red Guards, to rid their country of decadent ideas. In this time of turmoil officials in the city of Changsha announced one of the most astonishing archaeological discoveries ever made in China. Work crews digging through a hill had stumbled on an ancient tomb. Inside they'd found the body of a woman who'd been dead for more than 2,000 years. A body reported to be unlike any other ancient body ever found.
Chinese scientists met to discuss the new discovery, but no one wanted to take responsibility for examining the ancient corpse. It was not a good time to fail, especially when Premier Zhou Enlai, one of the most powerful men in China, expected you to succeed. Premier Zhou told the people not to touch ancient treasures unless they were absolutely sure they wouldn't destroy them. He said that if they damaged them they would be disrespectful to their ancestors and to their country, so they generally left anything found in ancient tombs alone.