The Glitter Factory

Ian Teh for TIME

Deep vein: Dayingezhuang miners gather gold ore 1,300 ft. (400 m) below the surface

The people of the scrub hills of China's eastern Shandong province have an ancient get-rich-quick formula. Just find the home of the sun god. When he tired of flying in his chariot, the legend goes, he would rest in a gold-filled cave on Mount Luo. For thousands of years people have searched for the sun god's lair, and they're still at it today. At the Dayingezhuang mine 19 miles (30 km) south of Mount Luo, workers take an open elevator car for a 21/2-minute plunge down a dark, icy shaft. At the bottom, amid swirling condensation and suffocating dankness,...

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