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Qin Shi Huang Tomb

Located at the foot of the Mountain Li and 2 km west of the Terracotta Army, is the tomb of the Qin Emperor that the warriors were built to protect. This is a very tourist oriented site and it leaves many people feeling cold. Today, it is hard to imagine the incredible glamour and grandeur that must have surrounded this tomb in 221 BC.

Speaking of Qin's Terracotta Warriors and Horses, I dare say that most people definitely have heard about it or even have paid a visit. Its grandeur and mystery really overwhelm you. However, people could have neglected the yet unexcavated mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang due to all this. Actually, the Museum of Terracotta Warriors forms only part of the tomb. Greater things are yet to come.

The tomb of
Qin Shi Huang is located in the eastern suburbs of Lintong County, 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Xian: on the Lishan Mountain in the south and overlooking the Wei River towards north. The lay of the land from Lishan to Mount Hua is shaped dragon-like according to traditional Chinese geomancy. The imperial tomb is at the eye of the dragon. The emperor had chosen well.

In size, the mausoleum is larger than the Great pyramid in Egypt. Seen from afar, it is a hill overgrown with vegetation. It is believed that the tomb consists of an interior city and an exterior city. The exterior of the mausoleum is a low earth pyramid with a wide base. In 2000 years, the original 100-meter-high (328 feet) hillock has been weathered down to about 47 meters (154 feet) high, 515 meters (1,690 feet) long from south to north and 485 meters (1,591 feet) wide east to west. In an area of 2,180,000 square meters (less than one square miles), many large-scale alhambresque buildings housing precious treasures are said to be buried inside the tomb.

The mausoleum was begun to build in 246B.C when the First Emperor Chin ascended the throne at the age of 13. At that time, 720,000 laborers under servitude and convicts were pressed into service to build the mausoleum. The entire project lasted for 38 years until his second son was enthroned after several years. Not only did the unprecedented all-powerful emperor leave us the great exploit through all centuries but leave the world a mysterious mausoleum. Its organizational structure imitated the structure of the capital, and its entourage assumes a shape of the Chinese character " 回 ". An inner city wall and an outside wall were constructed to enclose the mausoleum. Presently, some bases of the surface structures such as the imperial sleeping palace, rest palace, garden, temple and official houses have been proved up.

Qin Shihuangdi began supervising the construction of the Qin Ling, his burial tomb, as soon as he took the throne in 246 B.C. Work intensified after the conquest of the rival states, and continued for about 40 years, even after his death in 210 B.C. Only the fall of the dynasty itself in 206 B.C. halted work on the elaborate funerary complex.
The site chosen was south of the Wei River beside the slopes of Black Horse Mountain in what is now Lintong County, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Xi'an. The entire site measures approximately seven and a half kilometres square. Interior and exterior ramparts were built around its edge, probably out of the earth removed in the course of digging graves and chambers within the mausoleum. The exterior of the mausoleum is in the form of a low earth pyramid  with a wide base about 350 metres (382 yards) square. Originally it was 115 metres (377 feet) high, but more than 2,000 years of erosion have reduced this to 76 metres (249 feet). The emperor's grave itself, Qin Ling, which lies less than two kilometres west of the burial ground of the terracotta army, has not been excavated. Beneath it is thought to lie the underground palace in which the remains of Qin Shihuangdi were laid to rest over 22 centuries ago.

The underground palace of the mausoleum is the core of the whole buildings. According to Sima, a great historian in the Western Han Dynasty, the Qin mausoleum was built deep down in the underground, where a foundation of bronze was laid and sarcophagus was coated there on .Rare objects and jewels were collected from the palaces and from various officials, and were carried there and stored in vast quantities. Artificers were ordered to construct mechanical crossbows, which, If anyone were to enter ,would immediately discharge their arrows .With the aid of quicksilver ,rivers and seas were made the flowing movement of which was affected by mechanical driving .On the vault top were the delineated celestial constellations, while on the floor, there were the geographical divisions of the earth. Candles made from the floor ,there were the delineated celestial constellations ,while on the floor, there were the geographical divisions of the earth .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.

The mausoleum was covered and rammed by earth, and formed into three-tier steps. It makes an overturn "dou"(the ancient Chinese ladder type container, its mouth is bigger than the bottom) figure from afar. Its bottom likes a square, covered an area of 250,000sq.m, and was115m in the old days. But now, the bottom covered-earth only covering an area of 120,000sq.m and is 87m in height because of the over-2000-year weathering. The total area of the mausoleum is 56.25sq.km. There are many pits buried with the emperor's dead, apart from the terra-cotta legion pits, the bronze chariot and horse pits. For the past several decades more than 600 pits and tombs have been found around the emperor's mausoleum, such as the stone body armors pits, different dramas' clay figures pits and the satellite tombs.

    The ancient people thought the spirit could be still alive in the next would after they died ,so did emperor Qin Shihuang . he attempted to move the earthly empire to the heaven and establish an underground empire that was as glorious and dignified as the one he ruled over when alive.
    Around the emperor Qin's tomb approximately 600 satellite tombs and pits have been discovered in the vicinity of mausoleum. Among them is a pit containing the emperor's bronze chariots and horses symbolizing the journey of his spirit to the world of the dead: various pits containing rare birds and animals indicate the emperor's love of hunting; stable pits depict the imperial studs ;and three pils containing the terra-cotta warriors and horses represent the mighty army of the Qin Dynasty.
    At present, three places of the burial pits have been investigated ,which are 17 pits outside the east wall of the mausoleum; 20 pits inside the small city; and some burial pits in the north gate between inner and outer walls.
Furthermore, in the southwest of the mausoleum the massive graves for the builders have been discovered .Not any coffins found to hold the remains of the mausoleum builders; their bodies were roughly put together with one overlapping the other.

Other Surrounding Scenic Spots:

Mountain Hua

Mount Lishan

Huaqing Hot Spring

Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses

Banpo Museum

Investigations have confirmed that there was an inner and outer enclosure and preliminary archaeological investigations have revealed what appears to be the underground palace's wall just four metres below the surface. What actually lies in the underground palace will remain a mystery for the moment, since the Chinese Ministry of Culture has no plans to excavate the site. The official line is that Chinese archaeologists are reluctant to open the tomb until they know a way to preserve what may be very delicate remains.

The mausoleum is thought to have been plundered at least once, by a rebel general called Xiang Yu in 206 B.C, but no excavations have yet been done. It is known, however, that not only was the body of Qin Shihuangdi interred in the tomb (in 209 B.C, a year after his death), but also those of his childless wives-who were buried alive-together with artisans who had knowledge of the inner structure of the mausoleum.

Information about the construction of the mausoleum comes almost entirely from Sima Qian, the chronicler of The Historical Records-China's first large-scale work of history which was written about a century after the fall of Qin. He recorded that a labour force of 700,000 was used to construct the mausoleum. The underground palace was said to comprise various chambers, the most important being the burial chamber. It featured bronze walls with heaven and the known world- the Qin empire-being reproduced on the ceiling and floor respectively. The sun, moon and stars-the last represented by pearls-were depicted, while features on the floor included the 100 rivers of the empire flowing mechanically into a sea on which floated golden boats. Tests on the mausoleum have shown minute traces of mercury over an estimated area of 12,000 square metres (14,352 square yards), adding substance to this claim. In all, some 17 skeletons, probably of princes and princesses, and perhaps of Qin Shihuangdi's parents, have been unearthed.

The Historical Records
Sima Qian, a great historian who wrote in early Han dynasty, offered archeologists great insight on the mausoleum's construction. We learned from him that the tomb is huge. The coffin of Emperor Qin Shihuang was cast in bronze. Underground Palace was gem-studded replica of imperial housing above ground. Moreover, booby traps with automatic-shooting arrows were installed to deter would-be tomb robbers. Heaven and earth were represented in the central chamber of the tomb. Ceiling shaped into sun, moon and stars by inlaying pearls and gems symbolizes the sky and the ground was an accumulation point of rivers, lakes and seas, like Yellow River and Yangtze River, which stands for the earth. It is said that the underground palace was brightly lit by whale oil lamps for eternity. Nowadays, the records in this book have been definitely proved right by archaeological findings and the underground palace of the tomb is presumably well preserved.

Remains of the Mausoleum
As a part of the mausoleum, the terracotta warriors have dazzled the world. But the materials unexcavated are also worth studying. Qin bricks and tiles, engraved with decorative patterns, are strew everywhere around the tomb. There are many satellite tombs built for accompanying Qin Shihuang. 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.

Whatever the historical opinion, there is no disputing that this was once an incredible and impressive Tomb. Archaeologists believe that the tomb was originally decorated with gold, silver and pearl . The artists who designed and constructed the mausoleum were buried alive with the Emperor and thereby forced to literally take their secrets to the grave. According to the Emperor's official biography, "The Emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried at the foot of Mount Li. The Emperor started to build his mausoleum as soon as he came to the throne. When he unified the whole country, the Emperor Qin Shi Huang conscripted more than seven hundred thousand convicts to help build his mausoleum... and install crossbows, which were automatically discharged to prevent tomb plunderers."

Hopefully one day, the entire mausoleum will be unearthed and displayed to the public.

Mystery of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum Revealed
Archeologists have unraveled the mysterious plan of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, the 2,200-year-old structure which is famous as the home of 7,000 terracotta horses and warriors.
Located in Xi'an in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum is the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221BC-207BC) and also of China.

Covering 2.13 square kilometers, the four-layered mausoleum, like a well-structured city, includes an underground palace, which is the center of the mausoleum, an inner city, outer city and grounds.

"The revelation of the structure is the greatest achievement in the study of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum in the past 40 years," said Yuan Zhongyi, an expert on the mausoleum and honorary curator of the Museum of Qin Terracotta Horses and Warriors.

Since they began to explore the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum 40 years ago, archeologists have discovered constructions over hundreds of square kilometers and more than 600 tombs of those buried alive with the emperor. However, the overall plan of the cemetery remained a mystery.

The cemetery, facing east, is a rectangle with falling 85 meters from the south to the north. The ramparts of the inner city and outer city are altogether 12 kilometers long, similar to that of Xi'an during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The underground palace, the central city, lies under the grave mound in the south of the inner city. It symbolizes Qin Shi Huang's real palace when he was alive, occupying two thirds of the southern part of the inner city.

The grave mound is the Qin Shi Huang Tomb tourists can see.

The inner city has the most buildings and buried relics such as the coffin chamber, flags and weapons for guards of honor and stores. Subordinate buildings and tombs for buried concubines of the monarch were also in the inner city.

In the area between the inner and outer cities, archeologists have found a chamber for stables, 31 chambers for birds and rare animals, 48 tombs for imperial concubines who were buried alive with the emperor and three sites of homes of officials in charge of gardens and temples.

Some secondary establishments such as a large pit for stone loricae and terracotta figures were also found in this zone.

Outside the outer city, along with the well-known terracotta horses and warriors, archeologists found 98 chambers for small stables and many tombs for those buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The gates of the inner and outer cities in both the west and the east were built in the form of courtyards. The city wall in the mausoleum has cloisters on both sides with turrets at the four corners.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first in China to construct a mausoleum city and to build coffin chambers and subordinate palaces in the mausoleum. The first emperor also started the ritual of building chambers for those buried alive with the owner of the tomb on a large scale. Another unusual discovery is that the mausoleum does not have a tomb of the empress.

(Xinhua News Agency August 26, 2002)

Admission Fee:

CNY150 (March 1 - end of November)
CNY120 (December 1 - end of Februay)
The fare is for the Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Park Through Ticket including the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Lishan Garden (
Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Park) and shuttle buses inside the scenic area.

Opening Hours: Sell ticket from 08:30 to 17:00 (March 16-Nov.15), stop check-in at 18:35; 
Sell ticket from 08:30 to 16:30 (Nov.16-March 15), stop check-in at 18:05

Getting There:
From Xian,
take tourism bus no. 5 (306) from east square of  
Xian Railway Station
 and get off at Bing Ma Yong (Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses) stop. The whole journey takes about one hour. Fare: CNY7  
take bus 307 from the south gate of 
Tang Paradise
 to Bing Ma Yong. Fare: CNY 8
From Lintong,
Take bus no.101 (5101 in Xian) to Qinling Station.

Getting Around:
Battery-powered motor vehicles and ancient-style carriage are available for visitors to tour around the mausoleum;
30 free shuttle buses are traveling between the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum and the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses for tourists' convenience. One can take them by showing the entrance ticket.

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