Our understanding of DNA has grown to an extent that scientists are now saying, give me your DNA, I’ll sketch out what you look like.

Scientists at the Fudan University, Shanghai, recently performed this feat. Their raw material was the well-preserved remains of a Chinese emperor, who lived 1,500 years ago.

Historians credit Emperor Wu with unifying northern China — perhaps nature decided to reward that good act by preserving his skull and many bones almost intact — yielding modern scientists a trove of genetic material.

Now, a digital rendering of Wu’s face has been made possible. Working with the ‘single nucleotide polymorphisms’, which contain information about colour of skin and hair, and using the skull, scientists have reconstructed Wu’s face — he had “brown eyes, black hair, dark-to-intermediate skin”.

Not just the face. Scientists have been able to tell how Wu died. It had been supposed previously that he was killed by poisoning, but now an analysis of his DNA has revealed that the man was “at an increased risk for stroke,” according to a statement, based on a scientific paper published in Current Biology.

With modern techniques it is now possible to determine what ancient people looked like, according to Pianpian Wei, the paper’s corresponding author.