Beijing: China's first emperor Ying Zheng sanctioned a nation-wide search for the elixir of life more than 2,000 years ago, by issuing an executive order that sought answers from local governments, scientists say.
Researchers from Hunan Institute of Archaeology and China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences discovered wooden slips in China's Hunan province containing the emperor's order.
According to the calligraphic script on the narrow wooden slips, a village called "Duxiang" reported that no miraculous potion had been found yet and implied that the search would continue.
Another place, "Langya," in present day eastern Shandong Province near the sea, presented a herb collected from an auspicious local mountain.
The discovery also demonstrated the emperor's centralisation of authority, the state-run 'Xinhua' news agency reported.
"It required a highly efficient administration and strong executive force to pass down a government decree in ancient times when transportation and communication facilities were undeveloped," Zhang said.
Ying Zheng was the first person to unify China and declared himself Qin Shihuang, or the first emperor of Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC).
To consolidate his power, he standardized the system of weights and measures, and issued currency.
A previous study of the slips suggested the Qin Dynasty already had a mail service, probably even express delivery.
Over 36,000 wooden slips, with more than 200,000 Chinese characters written on them, were discovered in June 2002 in an abandoned well in western Hunan.
The slips dated from 222 BC to 208 BC and covered politics, military, economy, law, culture and medicine.
The new discoveries shed light upon China's ancient medical history and fill in some gaps regarding the emperor's governance, Zhang said.
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