- Title: CHINA: 2,000 year old toilet is discovered
- Date: 15th September 2000
- Summary: XIAN, SHAANXI PROVINCE, CHINA (FILE) (REUTERS) slv THOUSANDS OF TERRACOTTA WARRIORS IN PIT, GUARDING GRAVE OF EMPEROR QIN SHIHUANG, WHO DIED IN 210 BC; GROUP OF TERRACOTTA WARRIORS; WARRIOR AND HORSE; SCU TERRACOTTA WARRIOR'S FACE (4 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 30th September 2000 13:00
- Location: MANGSHAN AND XIAN, CHINA
- Country: China
- Topics: History,Quirky,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA7KF62OG1GI72JNRUIHKMXM62U
- Story Text: China has claimed to have invented the toilet, following the discovery of a 2,000 year-old toilet complete with a stone seat and a comfortable armrest.
China, the country which brought the world paper, printing, gunpowder and the compass, is staking claims to yet another invention.
With the discovery of a 2,000-year-old toilet that comes with a stone seat, a comfortable armrest and what archeologists say might be a flushing system, China is trying to wipe out Britain's claims to have invented the water closet down the pan The invention of the flush toilet had been widely attributed to London plumber Thomas Crapper, who patented a U-bend siphoning system for flushing the pan in the late 19th century and installed toilets for Queen Victoria.
Chinese archeologists found the 2,000 year old latrines inside royal tombs in Shangqiu (pronounced shangtchyo) county in central Henan (pronounced hernan) province.
These antique toilets graced the tombs of King Liu Wu (pronounced lyo woo), Queen Li (pronounced lee) and her son Liu Mai (pronounced lyo mahye), who lived during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC to AD 24).
According to the official Xinhua (pronounced sheen hwa) agency, these top-grade stools were the earliest of their kind ever discovered in the world, and called them a "great invention and a symbol of social civilisation of that time".
Located at the bottom of damp underground tunnels, the toilets have a sleek design and what looks like a flushing system.
"This toilet was built during the western Han dynasty.
This is the oldest toilet ever discovered in China. It is over 2,100 years old. It it is a seat toilet. There is space for people to put their feet down here and people would sit right here," said Professor Zhang Zhiqing, the vice director of the Henan Institute of Archeology who supervised the excavation.
But, however sophisticated, these fancy toilets built for dead kings and queens may never have been used in real life.
Archeologists speculate that rich people in the Han dynasty used similar toilets, however, they are still searching for hard evidence.
Early Chinese dynasties devoted considerable resources to building large tombs for the royal family, in an attempt to recreate life on earth for the spirit of the deceased. These tombs can consist of more than 30 rooms.
On top of the basic facilities of a shower room and a comfortable toilet, various antiques and paintings are also buried in the tombs.
However, archeologists found that grave robbers had already beaten them to the deep underground tunnels and stolen priceless relics.
Some of these grave robberies may have occurred as early as the age of the Three Kingdoms (220-265 AD). Recent decades have seen fresh waves of looting and the development of powerful smuggling gangs.
"People rob graves in China because there is a huge amount of cultural relics in the country. There is a big market for antiques. People buy and sell antiques, smuggle them out of the country and the situation is getting increasingly serious. People have a strong incentive to rob graves. Central authorities are strengthening policies against grave robbing. At the same time, local governments and relics bureaus are working together to protect relics," said Professor Zhang.
Authorities are trying to protect the tombs from further degradation. They have closed the stone quarries and have placed security around the tombs.
This recent discovery ot the 2,000 year old toilet is one of the most unusual discoveries of the decade.
Another archeological discovery, considered to be the biggest of the 20th century is the Terracotta Army guarding the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang (pronounced tcheen sher hwang).
China is proud of what it regards as one of the world's oldest continuous civilisations, and is looking for hard evidence of its achievements.
Among other inventions claimed by China are toilet paper, fireworks, paper money, kites, and the clock.
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