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2. Eternal Life

Cinnabar is the scarlet or brick-colored ore that contains mercury. It is responsible for many cultures’ association of mercury and the color red. Ancient Chinese physicians believed that cinnabar and mercury had healing properties, and cinnabar is still in use today in many Chinese medications. Chinese emperors often sought the elixir of life or eternal youth. Sun Simiao, a physician hailed as the “King of Medicine” wrote about the creation of an elixir of life using mercury, sulfur, and arsenic. The Jiajing Emperor consumed an elixir of life containing mercury; the resulting poisoning killed him shortly after.

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