china edition


Xian - Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang

Shaanxi - Xian - Yan'an

Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang is located in the eastern suburbs of Lintong County, 35 kilometer east of Xian. According to traditional Chinese geomancy, the site was chosen between the Li Mountain to the south and the Wei River to the north. It is the first and largest imperial mausoleum with the most numerous sacrificial objects in China.

Qin Shi Huang (259 BC-210 BC), the first emperor of China, ascended the throne at the age of 13. Qin Shi Huang's reign was marked with great advances in all sections of society: he ordered the construction of a vast infrastructure of roads and canals and the connection of the various border walls of his kingdom into one Great Wall; he standardized the systems of writing, of weights and measures, and of currency in order to simply communication and record-keeping; and he abolished feudalism, forced the nobles to reside under his thumb in the capital city and divided the rest of China into 36 separately governed states. He also fostered religion, sacrificing to the gods in thanks for his military and diplomatic successes, announcing that he had finally united China.

Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang However, Qin Shi Huangi was also a tyrannical despot and ruled with an iron hand for many years, handing down draconian laws, and levying large tax rates to oppress the commoners of ancient China and maintain and solidify his tenuous grasp on the monarchy.

Construction of the Qin Mausoleum began in 247 BC soon after Qin Shi Huang ascended to the throne and was still underway at his death 210 BC. Qin Shi Huang ordered 720,000 conscript laborers to hurry up on building his royal tomb.

Many laborers died of hardship during its construction, and all the workilometeren were entombed along with the emperor in order to keep their mouths shut. His son, the second Qin Emperor, saw to his entombment.

Construction of the tomb required a large quantity of stones. According to the historical documents, hundreds of thousands of criminals were forced to carry stones from the North Mountains. The stone processing site in Zhengjia Village shows that at least 750,000 square m of stones were used to construct the Qin Mausoleum. Stones used for the mausoleum were carved with beautiful patterns and painted with moisture-proof red lacquer. Seams between the stones were filled with melted copper and tin. Crossbows were installed to kill any one attempting to rob the tomb.

The Mausoleum, which covers 56.25 square kilometer, was designed in accordance with the layout of the emperor's capital. The original heigth of the tomb was taller than today's. The Historian said the base of the tomb was 2087.65 m in perimeter. Because of 2,200 years erosion by wind and rain, it is 1390 m now. The Mausoleum is rectangular in shape and enclosed by 2 walls; the inner city wall and the outer city wall. The inner wall covers an area of 79 square m, and the outer wall 213 square m.The walls no longer exist but the foundations are still there.

The underground palace of the mausoleum is the core of the whole complex. Some survey indicates that the ceiling is studded with jewels depicting the sky, and mercury was pumped in mechanically to create images of flowing river. Trial digs have revealed high contents of mercury in the soil. Candles made from the fat of the walrus were said to bum for a very long time. This indicates that the interior of the mausoleum is grand and gorgeous palace and treasure house. It is said that the underground palace was brightly lit by whale oil lamps for eternity. The coffin of Emperor Qin Shihuang was cast in bronze. The palaces and other buildings within the walls of the mausoleum were destroyed. Only the huge pyramid of the mound survived the devastation. In 1987 the mausoleum became a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

As a part of the mausoleum, the terracotta warriors and horses have dazzled the world. But the materials unexcavated are also worth studying. Archaeologists working over several decades have discovered and excavated several dozen construction sites covering tens of thousands' of square m, including the most important large tomb, gardens, temples and houses. The 50 m long flagstone apron, 55 cm square plinth stones, drainage ditch, finely crafted stone water drainage system and red interior walls show the architectural skill and magnificence of the construction itself.

Many other tombs, unrelated to the Qin Mausoleum, have been found, including ruins at the Five-Ranges Dam, the Zhengjia Village Stone Processing Site and the Fish-pond Site. Ministers, princesses and princes, the famous and the not so famous were inhumed there.The burial pits for horses, rare birds and pottery figures were ever regarded as the sacrificial objects to the Emperor. Hence the remains from these tombs and pits are beneficial for archaeologists to make further research.