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Maoling Mausoleum


The Mao Mausoleum, the tomb of Liu Che, Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty, is located in the Maoling village, Nanwei Town, northeast of Xingping County, 40 kilometers northwest of Xi'an. The existing site of bucket-shaped Mao Mausoleum is 46.5 meters high . The bottom base of the tomb is 240 meters in length. The cemetery was square, with the side length of about 420 meters. So far three earth gaps in the east, west and north still exist. There are several other tombs around the mausoleum , namely the tombs of Ms. Li, Wei Qing, Huo Qubing, Huo Guang, Jin Richan, etc. It is said that Emperor Wu's jade burial suit, jade case, jade stick, etc. were all buried in the grave. The Mao Mausoleum is the largest imperial mausoleums in the Han Dynasty with the longest construction period and most abundant burial objects. It is dubbed as “China's pyramid“.It is the largest of all Han tombs and was found to contain the largest number of relics. Nearby there are over 20 accompanying tombs. In 1978, a museum was established. It exhibits the stone sculptures of Western Han Dynasty, such as galloping horses, resting oxen and tigers.

Liu Che was the fifth Emperor of the Western Han Dynasty. He was a great feudal Emperor who can parallel Emperor Qin Shi Huang - the founder Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221BC - 206BC). During his 54-year reign he exerted himself to make the country prosperous by consolidating and strengthening the unification of many nationalities. With his great talent, he made the Western Han Dynasty's power reach the highest peak and also opened the famous Silk Road.

At the age of 71, Wudi died and was buried at the Maoling Mausoleum. His mausoleum was constructed in the shape of a four-sided dipper, 46meters high and 240 meters long. Around the mausoleum there are vestiges of a wall that surrounded it. The wall was 400 meters long and its base was 5.8 meters wide. Today the vestiges of the eastern, western and northern watchtowers can be clearly seen. Among the tombs of the Western Han Dynasty, the Maoling Mausoleum was the largest in dimension, took the longest time to be built and had the richest funeral objects. Emperor Han Wudi was on the throne for 54 years, yet the construction of the Maoling Mausoleum took 53 years to be completed. By the time he died, the trees at the mausoleum had grown so large that one could hardly get his arms around them. According to historical records, one third of the yearly taxes and tributes of the state went into the construction of the Maoling Mausoleum and the purchase of funeral objects that the tomb could hardly hold even before his death. So after the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Maoling Mausoleum became the target of grave robbers.

During the Western Han Dynasty in the area around the Maoling cemetery there were a lot of dwelling houses built for high officials and noble lords. Inside the cemetery there were many places and houses inhabited by tomb keepers and palace maids. The cleaners and gardeners alone numbered more than 5,000. The town of Maoling County was purposely built to the southeast of the mausoleum. Generals, officials, noblemen and the rich lived in the town and numbered over 277,000. At that time, even high officials and noble lords felt great honor if they could move near to the emperor's tomb to live.

Through the archaeological research of both the Maoling cemetery and the remains of the town of Maoling County, many things have been discovered there, including several remains of construction sites, pentagon water pipes, cobbled roads and other building installations from the Han Dynasty. There are over 20 satellite tombs of high officials and noble relatives around the Maoling Mausoleum. The famous young general Huo Qubing who, on six occasions, fought the Hun invaders bravely, was buried on the eastern side of the mausoleum one kilometer away from the main tomb. In 1978, the Maoling Mausoleum was set up. Eave tiles, Han bricks, pottery figures and other valuable historical relics that have been excavated at the Maoling Mausoleum as well as the giant stone carvings that were originally placed in front of Huo Qubing' tomb, are now on display there.

Maoling Museum is a museum focusing on the Western Han Dynasty period, with an integration of cultural relics, ancient buildings and garden settings. The excavated treasures displayed in the museum are mainly from Emperor Wu's tomb, Huo Qubing's tomb and stone carvings. The museum houses more than 4,000 pieces of relics, including national treasures of a gilt bronze horse, tiled eaves and a stone tiger sculpture. In the two main exhibition halls, tourists can appreciate some rare cultural relics, and learn more about the life and achievements of Emperor Wu .

Nine of the twelve tombs of the Western Han [206 BC- AD 9] emperors are situated on the Xianyang Plain to the north of the Wei River . They form the lower arc of the gigantic cone-like fan bounded by a string of eighteen imperial tombs of the Tang dynasty [618-907] with the city of Xi'an as its vertex. The largest of these Han tombs, Mao Ling , is the burial site of emperor Wudi  (156-87 BC) whose achievements included great military successes against the Huns, the main threat to China from the north, reforms to revitalize the economy and the educational system, as well as efforts to promote significant advance in Chinese literature. Under Wudi's reign, the Western Han dynasty reached its peak of prosperity. Since that time, the main ethnical group in China has adopted the dynasty's name "Han" .

The construction of the Mao Tomb began one year after the inauguration of Wudi and lasted 53 years till his death. It had consumed one third of the tax income of the country. Shaped like a inverted cup, the tomb is surrounded by a group of lesser (but still gigantic) tombs. Two famous ones are the burial sites of generals Huo Qubing  (140-117 BC) and Wei Qing (?-106 BC), who had won decisive battles against the Huns to neutralize their military capability. The more brilliant of the two generals, Huo died at a young age of 23. Deeply remorsed at Huo's death, emperor Wudi ordered to have the general buried by the side of his mausoleum being under construction.

But the tomb closest to the Wudi's Mao Tomb belongs to Lady Li , the emperor's favorite concubine who well understood that the key to winning his lasting devotion was to always appear mysterious in front of him. In recommending her to Wudi, her brother Li Yannian  wrote a timeless poem in which he claimed that her beauty could stun not only the capital but also the entire nation:

The Museum of Mao Tomb, built on the site of Huo Qubing's tomb, offers a very impressive collection of stone sculptures and carvings excavated from the surrounding tombs. The original ground structure built for the Mao Tomb was burned down by rebels at the end of Western Han dynasty. Numerous pieces of treasures were also looted.

Mao Ling , the burial site of emperor Wudi. Height: 46.5m; widths: 39.5m by 35.5m; circumference: 240m.

Emperor Wudi of the Western Han

Emperor Wudi ascended the throne at 16 and was in power for 54 years. He was always mentioned with Emperor Qin Shihuang who established the autocratic state of centralized power to consolidate control over the feudal society. In 112 BC, he revoked the titles of 106 feudal lords. He understood the malpractice of the aristocracy and established the Imperial College to train qualified officials and talents to strengthen feudal centralization. Meanwhile he also advocated state control over the fields of finance and commerce. For example, he announced that only the coins minted by the central government could be in circulation; metallurgy and salt processing were also forbidden among the people. Businesses run by the government enjoyed exclusive privileges and the government imposed heavy property tax on industrialists and businessmen to enhance the income of the court. The Western Han dynasty became unprecedentedly rich and powerful, centralization strengthened, and its feudal economy flourished.

Emperor Han Wudi also launched battles against the barbarian invaders on the northern border. In 138 BC, he appointed Zhang Qian as Chinese ambassador- extraordinary, to journey westward into Central Asia. Zhang opened the historic Silk Road and established the first cross-cultural exchanges between East and West.

Emperor Han Wudi was not only a statesman but also had great cultural talent. "Yuefu" - an official conservatory was set up to collect folk songs and ballads and most of the folk songs in the Han period came from that period. Yuefu poems had a great influence on later periods. Emperor Han Wudi accepted Dong Zhongru's proposal of "rejecting the other schools of thought and respecting only Confucianism" which ended the period of "contention among one hundred schools of thought". Afterwards, Confucian thought gradually became an orthodox theory and had a far-reaching influence on Chinese philosophy.

Maoling Mausoleum Photos


Admission Fee: Maoling Museum:
CNY 45 (Mar.1-Nov.30)
CNY 25 (Dec.1-the end of Feb.)
Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours
Bus Route: Take the tourist bus which is to Fufeng County at the Pan Village Bus Station located in the Yuxing Gate

Other Surrounding Scenic Spots:

Xi;an  Private Tour:

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 Tour Guide Reservation From 30 USD / Day