The first page of Sima Qian's Shiji (source: Wikimedia Commons)
Update: April 2015
From The Guardian today: 'An archaeologist has discovered liquid mercury at the end of a tunnel beneath a Mexican pyramid, a finding that could suggest the existence of a king’s tomb or a ritual chamber far below one of the most ancient cities of the Americas.' It's fascinating that a similar idea was in use on the other side of the world. Apparently the ancient Mesoamericans could produce liquid mercury by heating mercury ore (cinnabar) which they also used for its blood-red pigment. According to Annabeth Headreck, an expert on central American art, the mercury “could be a sort of river, albeit a pretty spectacular one.” Shiny and scintillating materials seem to have been particularly important: many ritual objects were made reflective with mica and in 2013 'archaeologists using a robot found metallic spheres which they dubbed “disco balls” in an un-excavated portion of the tunnel, near pyrite mirrors. “I wish I could understand all the things these guys are finding down there,” Headrick said, “but it’s unique and that’s why it’s hard.”'