Home>>>City Guide>>>>Attraction>>>>Xian

Hot Topics on Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum

Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum is the mausoleum of the China's first emperor, Qing Shi Huang (personal name Ying Zheng). Ying Zheng began the construction of his mausoleum when he was still the king of the Qin State during Warring States period of China in 247 BC. It took 38 years to complete.

The tomb is located on Li Mountain in the south and overlooks the Wei River to the north. According to traditional Chinese geomancy, the lay of the land from Li Mountain to Hua Mountain is shaped like a dragon. The imperial tomb is just right at the eye of the dragon. Tourists are not allowed inside the mausoleum but can visit the surrounding gardens and mountains. A reconstruction of the mausoleum, located to the west of the original, allows the visitors to see the interior of the mausoleum.

How long did it take to build the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang?
Among all the imperial mausoleums, the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang features the longest construction time, largest number of labors and most gigantic project. The project started immediately after the emperor Qin Shi Huang ascended to the throne. The construction can be divided into three stages. The first stage lasted for 26 years from the accession of the emperor to the unification of China. In this stage, the foundation of the mausoleum such as the dimension and basic pattern were identified. The second stage lasted for nine years from the unification of China to the 35th year of Qin Shi Huang's rule. In this stage, the large-scale construction project was completed. The third stage lasted from the 35th year of Qin Shi Huang's rule to the winter of the second year of the 2nd Qin Emperor Hu Hai's rule. The remaining part of the project and the earth-up were finished. The whole project took as long as 37 or 38 years, which is even eight years longer than the construction of the Great Pyramid.

Was the cemetery park built with Xianyang (Qin's capital) as a model?
Yes, it was built according to the layout of Xianyang City, the ruling center of the Empire. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang wanted to bring the aboveground palace to the underground kingdom to continue his rule and luxuary life. the sites of the resting hall, officials' room and park in the inner city and the horse skeletons in the outer city that were found in recent years were all the component of the royal palace of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang when he was alive. The inner and outer cities were built by the capital Xianyang, and the underground palace was built by imitating the universe, all reflecting the ancient burial concept, that is, to treat death as life.

Who presided over the construction of the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang?
According to the Historical Book, Li Si, the prime minister of Qin Dynasty, presided over the construction of the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Li Si, due to his extraordinary talents, was always trusted and appreciated by the Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Before took over the prime minister, he had participated in the charge of the construction of the mausoleum. After became the prime minister, he formally presided over the construction work. The contribution of Li Si to the mausoleum is greatest, that is to explain why Li Si is the only one to be recorded in the Historical book as the person who presided over the tomb construction.

However, many other important figures in Qin history were once also in charge of the construction work. They were Zhuang, Wang Wan, Wei Lin and Lu Buwei, all of whom were prime ministers besides Li Si in Qin Dynasty. The prime minister was the chief executive of the country second only to the emperor. Therefore, the decision of ordering prime ministers to take in charge of the construction work deeply reflects the great attention from the country to the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The Secret Tomb of China's 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside?
This is a heated topic among archaeologists, historians and the public from home and abroad. Many people hold that the mausoleum should not be excavated, because the present technology yet cannot protect the cultural relics buried in the tomb. The others support the opening of the mausoleum due to the curiosity of what is inside and the profit the tomb will bring to the local area and people through the tourist industry. The two groups debate for a long period of time.

The attitude of the experts is clear, that is, the protection comes first. The problem of whether to open the tomb or not is to be put aside for 30 to 50 years, they suggest. The preservation techniques of culture relics cannot satisfy the requirement for protecting the underground treasures. The silk, fresco and paintings are the most difficult to be well preserved. For example, the lacquer coffin and colorful paintings on silk discovered in Mawangdui Han Tombs cannot remain as bright and complete as before when unearthed. When the mausoleum of the Emperor Shenzong in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the delicate silk discovered in the tomb immediately deteriorated when came into contact with air. In a sense, the excavation is equivalent to damage.

But few can deny the interest of seeing what is really buried inside the mausoleum. The unveiling of the secrets inside is truly exciting and encouraging. Even the experts who refuse the excavation would like to see the interior to check their lifelong research to the mausoleum. In the book of the Historical Records written by Sima Qian, the underground palace of the mausoleum is described like this: it was dug through many levels of the underground water. The tomb chamber was full of rare treasure collected from all the country and the states once he conquered. The lakes, rivers and seas were made up of flowing mercury. The legendary luminous pearls decorated on the dome of the tomb were the symbolization of the sun, the moon and the stars. The candles lit by fish oil were ever burning, shining the tomb brightly as though it were in the daytime. In order to protect the tomb from being disturbed, the booby-trap arrows were installed to kill any daring intruder.

What described in the Historical Records about the interior layout of the Mausoleum was finally proved to be true by a recent geological survey. The traces of the large amount of mercury were found, which in turn arouse many people's curiosity to have a look of the luxury inside the tomb. An economist put an article in his blog: "It is the time to open the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang" where he pointed out the excavation would bring big economic benefit, which has gained support from many net friends. But, there are also numerous people strongly opposed him by saying that his opinion was totally from an economist's point of view, regardless the protection of the cultural relics.

Though the debate between the two sides goes on and on, the Chinese government is not ready to give the green light to open the tomb. The approval to excavate the tomb will not be given in the near future and probably not in the lifetime of today generation. The best protective measure is to leave it as it is. It is unwise to calculate on the cultural heritage left by the forefathers to promote the economy, nor blindly develop it and left nothing for the later generations to inherit. So, everyone who is interested in the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, please use your imagination to picture what is inside the tomb, and let the great emperor rest in peace!

How many people built Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum (the Terracotta Army)?
There was estimated to be around 70,000 craftsmen involved in the construction.
 For more than 2,200 years, an estimated 7,000 life-size terracotta generals, infantrymen, archers and cavalrymen flanked the eastern side of the mausoleum. An armory filled with intricate suits of armor constructed from limestone plates could protect them against whatever foe dared to enter the emperor's tomb. Their open hands gripped bronze swords, spears and crossbows, poised to attack at any moment.
The terracotta army constitutes only a fraction of the artifacts contained in Emperor Qin's mausoleum. More than 14 years following the discovery, archaeologists have excavated at a deliberately slow pace to protect the artifacts. Yet the more archaeologists find, the more they learn about this ancient Chinese culture and Emperor Qin's rule. Though the clay warriors stand silently, they have many tales to tell.

How does the Terracotta Warriors affect China?
 In ancient China, living sacrifice was quite ordinary. Especially when kings or members of royal family died, their favorite concubines, servants, steeds and other animals should go with their masters as an expression of loyalty. That is to kill themselves or be killed on the funeral ceremony and buried alongside the coffin. Later, Chinese rulers started to realise the superiority was brought accompanied by the harmfulness to their regime, thus figures was used to replace living beings. However, it was just a new trend appeared at that time, the old funeral custom was still prevalent prior to the Qin Dynasty.

Qin Shihuang, as the first Chinese emperor, unified the whole territory of the country and made great contributions in military, economic, cultural fields. He is also known to be very ambitious and despotic. During the construction of his mausoleum (afterlife palace), he spared no expense and levied labors all over the country. But he didn't follow the custom to use living sacrifice for himself, a group of delicate soldier figures were made instead, which reflects more than personal superiority but national strength.

The Terracotta Warriors are involved with a lot of ancient Chinese advanced technologies, however, that may not be the most important for this topic. The large scale application of figures buried in tombs brought about ideological changes, profoundly affected the next several dynasties.

How to visit Terracotta Army in Xian
Plan your Xian tour? For many foreign visitors, visiting the excavated Terracotta Army is a must. These Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors were supposed to safeguard Chinese first emperor – Qin Shihuang in his afterlife. He unified China in 221 BC for the first time in Chinese history and established Qin Dynasty (221–206 B.C.), thus starting China’s over 2000 years’ feudal society.
 
You are kindly reminded that Qin Shihuang’s underground palace is still there and remains intact though some of the burial sites annexing to his mausoleum have been robbed. Why his own burial site or his underground palace still intact? It is said that his tomb has solid and strict anti-gravedigging system including secret crossbows which may kill people once you are inside the tomb, and a large amount of mercury which will emit much toxic air within the tomb.  Now the entrance for Qin Shihuang’ Mausoleum is also included in your ticket for Terracotta Army Museum – One ticket for two sites.

Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum.just a mound, not excavated yet
 
Located 1.5km east of Qin Shihuang mausoleum, the Emperor’s afterlife army terracotta soldiers are only part of his mausoleum. These vivid over 2000-year-old soldiers of Terracotta Army were discovered March 24, 1974 by a group of local farmers when they were digging a well. Now this site of Terracotta army has been turned into a world famous attraction site, bombarded by tons of tourists – up to 40,000 people a day visiting this museum. I’ve been to The Terracotta Army Museum for several times.

Terracotta Army Museum
 
Below are some of the Terracotta Army travel tips for your reference if you are going to make your maiden trip to the world famous Terra-Cotta Warriors and Soldiers Museum:
 
Tip # 1: Going there by bus is highly recommended
For money-saving trip to the Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors, take a public bus is a good choice. It is very easy to find the special Tourism Bus 5 (Bus no. 306) runing between Xian Raiway Station to Terracotta Army Museum. If you stand in front of Xian Railway Station, The Bus 5(306) parks at the parking lot on your right or east side. You don’t have to buy the bus ticket in advance. Just jump on the bus and later a bus guide will come to you and collec the money – RMB 7 per person.
 
Be sure to get off at the last destination – Terracotta Army Museum since the Bus 5 (306) is scheduled to stop at several tourist attractions including Huaqing Hotspring, Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum. You don’t need to get off at these stops. The very last stop of this bus is the Terracotta Warriors. Just stay on the bus until you get to the last stop. Remember where you get off the bus terminal. After finishing your visiting the museum, come to the same parking lot and take the exact bus No 5 (306) since there are some other “fake” bus 306 which eagerly push you to take their buses.
 
Tip # 2: Basic information about Terracotta Warriors and Soldiers Museum
Located 30km east of Xian, the Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors are undoubtedly the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century. The museum is composed of three pits: Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit3. Pit 1 is most impressive and the hightlight of the museum. Pits 2 and 3, though interesting, are not as impressive as the pit 1. If you don’t have sufficient time, PIT 2 and PIT 3 can be avoided.
 
The movie -360 degrees, the background film, is in English and very cool, which takes about 15 minutes long. It gives some background to what you see with your own eyes. It is worth the 15 minutes. The film ticket is included in your entrance fee.
 
Tip # 03: Don’t expect too much from the Museum
Before you visit the terracotta worriors, if you have already read a lot and seen tons of picturs of the Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors, you may feel a little disappointed. So there is much hype which causes your visit to be a letdown.
 
Tip # 04: Rent an audio guide? Hire a tour guide? or Using a guidebook?
How to visit the musuem? You have three choices:
1) Rent an audio guide ( recorded guide ). You just pay RMB 40 a audio tour. But I don’t suggest using an audio guide. The narrator has a heavy accent and is difficult to understand.
2) Using a tour guide service. When you are going to buy your tickets at the ticketing office, tons of tour guides will come to you, eager to offer you the guide service. If you haven’t done much homework before you came to Xian. You are advised to hire a local tour guide to guide or translate for you at the price of about RMB 100-150. You will get more knowledge than from a guidebook or the reccordings. Just avoid the shopping sites your local guide may suggest you to go.
3) Using a guidebook to guide your tour in and around the museum.
 
Tip # 05: Walking from Ticketing office to Entrance Gate
It takes 5-10 minutes walking from the ticketing office to the entrance gate. If you pay RMB 5, you take a small tram ride to the entrance gate. In my opinion, if you are in good shape, just avoid using the small tram.
 
Tip # 06: Exit from the musuem
After you finish visiting the museum and leave for your bus terminal, or in a word, on the way back,  you have to pass through an area with a lot of shops and restaurants. This obviously poses some pressure on you to buy some souvenirs or spend some money here. If you are tender-hearted, and going to buy something to support China’s economy, please bargain!
 
Tip # 07: Some Restaurants Rip off
There are many restaurants leading up to the museum. Some of them just rip you off. So take great care of your money!
 
Tip # 08:  Toilets in the musuem are free
For the toilets outside the museum, you have to pay. But once you are inside the museum, you enjoy free toilets. They are the same squatting-style facility like everywhere else in china.
 
Tip # 09: Take a taxi to the Museum
It takes about 300-400 RMB by taxi from the downtown Xian to Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors. Very often you have to bargain with your taxi driver.
 
Tip # 10:  Terracotta Army, not Qin Shihuang Mausoleum
If you take Bus 5(306) from Xian Railway Station to Terracotta Army Museum, don’t get off at Qin Shihuang’ Mausoleum. Qin Shihuang’s Mausolem is not much worth visiting since it is just a mound, not excavated yet. So don’t confuse Terracotta Army with Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum. The entrance for Qin Shihuang’ Mausoleum is also included in your ticket for Terracotta Army Museum.
 
Tip # 11: Opening time and entrance fees
Opening Hours: 8:30AM – 5:30PM
Entrance Fee: RMB 150 (March 1-November 30); RMB 120 (December 1-the end of February)

Attractions In  Xi'an                        More


Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses


Qin Shi Huang


Nine major enigmas of Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin Shi Huang Tomb