Shaanxi Maoling Mausoleum

Located 9 kilometers northeast of Xingping City, 40 kilometers from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, Maoling Mausoleum is the tomb for Emperor Wu (Liu Che who lived from 156 to 87 B.C.) of the Western Han Dynasty. It is the largest tomb among all the 11 imperial tombs of the Western Han Dynasty, with the longest construction time and with the largest number of burial objects in that period. Thus it is regarded as “the Chinese Pyramid”.

Maoling Mausoleum

According to the regulations on burial system in the Western Han Dynasty, construction of a huge tomb for the emperor should begin in the second year of his reign. Emperor Wu began to build his tomb in A.D. 139, the second year of his reign. Each year, one third of the royal revenue was allocated for construction of the tomb, and the project lasted over 53 years, the longest time consumed for the construction of imperial tombs during the Han Dynasty. It also became the largest imperial burial ground with the largest number of burial objects in that period.

Tombs of emperors in the Han Dynasty were marked by earth mounds packed into square shapes with level tops. Tombs from that time are called fangshang for their square shapes. Looking like a pyramid without the pinnacle, the Maoling Mausoleum is 46.5 meters high, 39.5 meters from east to west, 35.5 meters from north to south on the top and 240 meters long at the base of the tomb. It was originally enclosed by a wall, 430.87 meters from east to west, 414.87 meters from south to north and 5.8 meters thick at the base. Traces of the gates on the eastern, western and northern sides are visible.

Maoling Mausoleum seen from a distance

The mausoleum contained bed-chambers, sitting halls and temples for the offering of sacrifices to gods or ancestors, and other structures and residences for people in charge of the tomb, mausoleum officials, entrance guards, tomb guards, gardeners and cleaners. Service to the mausoleum required some 5,000 persons.

The dead emperor had a piece of jade in his mouth, and was wrapped in “jade clothes sewn with gold thread”. It was recorded that the coffin chamber of Maoling was packed with treasures and so many figurines of birds, animals, fish, soft-shelled turtles and figurines of oxen, horses, tigers and leopards that there was no room for additional items by the time Emperor Wu died.

About 1 kilometer from the mausoleum, situates Maoling Museum which is located in the graveyard of Huo Qubing, the most outstanding military talent of the Western Han Dynasty under Emperor Wu. The museum is surrounded by ancient-style structure such as pavilions and towers, and more than 4,100 cultural objects including 14 national historical relics are exhibited.

Maoling Museum

In the graveyard of General Huo Qubing, there are 16 large stone sculptures, including a horse stepping on a Hun, a dozing horse, a sleeping tiger, an ox, a man holding a bear in his arms, a weird-looking beat swallowing a sheep, a wild boar and a fish. Among them, the one depicting a horse stepping on a Hun is the most famous. These stone sculptures are life-like and carved with simple and concise lines, fully testifying to the ambitious aspirations and great achievements in arts of the early Han Dynasty.

The Stone Statue-A horse stepping on a Hun

ADD: Maoling Village, Nanwei Township, Xingping County, Xianyang City, 40 kilometers from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.

Admission: March-November: 80yuan; December-February: 60yuan.

Opening Hours: 08:00-18:00(March-November); 08:00-17:30 (December-February).

Transport: One-day tour buses go to the Maoling Mausoleum from either Xi’an Railway Station or Shangde Road.

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