Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor


Situated in Lintong, which is 35km east to Xi’an City in Shaanxi Province, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (Qin Shihuang) was built from 246 B.C. to 208 B.C. . It is also the first and the largest emperor’s mausoleum in Chinese history, known for its huge scale and unrivalled number of buried treasures. It is recorded that to build this mausoleum, 700,000 craftsmen were recruited and 38 years were taken.

The mausoleum covers an area of 56.25 square kilometers, with a mound tamped into the shape of a truncated pyramid. It’s 345 meters long from east to west at the bottom, and 350 meters in width. Around the mound are two walls one inside the other. The inner wall is 580 meters long from south to north and 345 meters from west to east; the outer wall is 940 meters in width and 2,165 meters in length. They are practically ruins now, only the base is still there, about 8 meters thick. The outer wall has an entrance in each of the four directions, but the inner wall has a gate only in the east, west and south side. Scattered around the mausoleum are a great number of satellite pits and tombs varying in style with their hidden treasures, and those already identified have outnumbered 400.

Found in these pits are bronze chariots for the emperor or royal members, rare birds and animals that symbolize the emperors’ hunting, stables that mirror the royal horse raising, and the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses that model Qin emperor’s undaunted army. In recent years, over 50,000 relics have been rediscovered in these pits.

The excavation revealed three pits of pottery warriors and chariots are all in the style of cellar with tunnels of earth and wooden structures. The layout is two in the north and one in the south, all facing east, numbered as Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3. The latter two face each other north of the first.


These satellite pits are 1,500 meters to the east wall of the mausoleum, right at the north side of the main road to the east gate. The pottery warriors were imitations of the military arrays, the important guards of the underground royal city. Judging from pit design and warrior equipment, Pit 1 is that of the main force of infantry and chariots, Pit 2 is the compound of infantry, cavalry and chariots, and Pit 3 is the headquarters of them.

Two sets of bronze chariots and horses, excavated in a pit west of Emperor Qin’s Tomb, are so far the most complicatedly structured. Together with the pottery warriors, they add color to the mausoleum and provide specimen for the study of the history and bronze casting of the Qin Dynasty.


The chariots line up one after the other to the west, with four horses and one charioteer as a set. The frame is made of bronze, single-thrilled, 3.8 meters in length. The front chariot is sheltered with an umbrella roof, and the charioteer is standing, whereas the rear one has a canopy and a kneeling charioteer. Owing to the inscription “Comfortable Chariot” found on the rein tip of the rear chariot, archeologists named the front one as “High chariot” and the rear one “Comfortable Chariot” which was for the master. Thanks to the painstaking restoration by the archeologists, the complete two sets of bronze chariots and horses are now on display in the museum. These two bronze chariots of over 2,100 years ago are highly valued as unmatchable bronze works of ancient times.

What should be noted about the mausoleum is that full scale excavation of the mausoleum is yet to be done. Though archeologists and historians have worked on the mausoleum for decades, only a few satellite pits have been excavated due to the hugeness of the mausoleum and lack of written data. Visitors to the bomb can only see a mound, under which lies the emperor in his meticulous underground palace free of disturbance for over 2,000 years.

Read more:

Awakened Qin’s Terra-Cotta Army

Touch Xi’an

Xian: A Wall with a Great View

Xi’an Night Tour: Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.