Xianyang is situated in the middle of Wei River of Shaanxi Province.
Random photo: Impressions of China
Xianyang is used to be the capital of Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). Its main industry is textiles, and the other industries include machinery, chemicals, and electrical power. Xi’an International Airport is located in the city of Xianyang with an expressway linking from Xianyang to Xi’an.
Xianyang 咸阳市 - The Qianling Mausoleum 乾陵
The Qianling Mausoleum is located along the northern edge of 400-square-kilometer Qinshuan Plain in central Shaaxi Province, where 19 emperors of the Tang Dynasty weree buried in 18 mausoleums. The Qianling Mausoleum, lying 80 kilometers in the Liangshan Mountains in Qianxian County, north of Xi’an, is the only tomb shared by two emperors and its environs look like a sleeping woman from afar. Because of Wu Zetian’s unusual experiences and great achievements, the mausoleum’s unusual topographical features make it all the more mysterious. Construction of the Mausoleum began in 683 and lasted nearly 30 years. On the surface, there used to be 378 elegant winding corridors and halls. All have disappeared with the passage of time. At present, the most conspicuous relics are 103 large stone sculptures lining the passageway that leads to the mausoleum. Known as a museum of stone sculptures, they include tablets as well as statues of generals, civil officials, heads of ethnic minorities, foreign kings, princes, envoys and animals. The most sculptures are : the tablet without characters and the 61 headless statues of leaders of ethnic minorities, foreign kings, princes, and envoys. Dedicated to Wu Zetian (624-705, reigned 690-705), the tablet is made of a single stone piece weighing 98.8 tons. With a height of 7.5 meters, it has no carved characters when it was erected. Emperors liked erecting tablets with articles eulogizing their achievements. There are two explanations about why Wu Zetian had a wordless tablet erected. One is that Wu Zetian considered her achievements were beyond the description of any high-sounding words. The other holds that Wu Zetian wanted her achievements and errors to be judged by later generations rather than by herself and her courtiers.
With different costumes, positions and weapons, the 61 stone statues show the strength of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and people from afar come to show their respects. Hiatory books do not record why the statues lost their heads. However, legend has it that the son of a statue was very unhappy to See his father standing in front of Wu Zetian’s Mausoleum to show respect for the dead empress and came up with an idea. One evening, he ruined the crops in the fields nearby and spread rumours that the statues had turned into evil spirits, which destroyed the crops. Local peasants believed what he said and cut off the statues’ heads. After the collapse of the Tang Dynasty, most of its imperial mausoleums were robbed. But robbers from different dynasties tried in vain to rob the Qianling Mausoleum. When robbers started their work, it was said that There was heavy rain, harsh wind and flying stones, which frightened away the superstitious robbers.
As the Tang Dynasty was one of the most thriving periods in Chinese history, experts believe that the archaeological findings might yield what could be called the ninth wonder in the world as the Qianling Mausoleum is opened one day. They believe the archaeological discoveries in the Mausoleum might be as important as, and ever more important than that of the terracotta warriors and horses. Included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization List of World Heritage, the terracotta warriors and horses of Qinshihuang List of World Heritage, the terracotta warriors and horses of Qinshihuang, the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, are accredited (hailed) as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
The Tang imperial cemetery extends some 50 kilometers from Liangshan Hill in the west to Jinsu Hill in the east. For more than 1,000 years, these tombs representing imperial power and dignity often made people recall the most brilliant period of Chinese feudal society. The Qianling Mausoleum, speculated as the grandest, is the joint tomb of Emperor Gaozong (Li Zhi, 628-683, the third Emperor of the Tang Dynaty) and his Empress Consort Wu Zetian (624-705, reigned 690-705) the first and only female Emperor in Chinese history. Experts believe that There are very rich and valuable treasures in the mausoleum. According to “Records of the Holy Deeds of Emperor Gaozong,” the Emperor asked in his last words to have his favourite calligraphy and paintings buried in his tomb. From 1960 to 1971, Chinese archaeologists excavated five imperial tombs around Qianling and found more than 4,000 rare cultural relics. Because Chang’an (today’s Xi’an) was China’s most open city at that time, and may also find treasures from Western countries in the tomb. Archaeologists found that although the treasures have been in the tomb for more than 1,000 years, they remain untouched, because the tomb’s structure has stopped grave robbers. Archaeological prospecting proved that the tomb passage, from the entrance to the tomb gate, was built of rectangular stone blocks layer upon layer, 39 in all. Each layer of the stone blocks was fastened together with iron bolts and all the crevices between two layers of stone blocks were filled with molten lead. It was too difficult to open the tomb under the conditions in the past. And There were no holes found around the tomb, and the stone blocks and rammed earth along tomb passages remain untouched as when the Emperor and empresses were buried.
In 1950, Shaanxi’s archaeologists finally found the tomb passage after a lot of hard work, and in April 1960, the province organized experts to excavate the passage and make a careful preparation for the opening of the Qianling Mausoleum. The central government did not approve the excavating plan, making it clear the conditions could not meet with the requirements of protection. Over the last 50-odd years, local archaeologists excavated many important ancient cultural spots in Shaanxi, including the accompanying tombs of Emperor Qinshihuang, where archaeologists discovered the terracotta warriors and horses, underground storehouse of Famen Temple and Mausoleum of Qin Gong. The researchers in the world have not yet found the best ways to protect the ancient murals, silk, paper, and lacquerware. The relics buried underneath from more than 1,000 years are usually well kept because the environment within the tombs is balanced out with little oxygen and disturbances from other organisms. Archaeological excavations break off the ecological balance suddenly within a tomb and bring in oxygen, light and other matters that destroy the relics in a couple of hours. During the excavation of the underground storehouse of the Famen Temple, researchers had no way of dealing with the rolls of ancient silks, which stuck together and whose colour began to darken immediately after the silks were exposed to light and air. As a result, the silks are still stored in a refrigerator underground. Some people fear that the excavation of the Qianling Mausoleum will actually open a “Pandora’s Box﹡,” which will start a new wave of diggings and damage ancient Chinese heritage.
Shaanxi Province, already the largest living museum of ancient Chinese cultural relics, should be able to make the best use of the already excavated sties for the promotion of the local archaeological studies and tourism. Cultural relics are mainly an educational tool, not a money-making machine.
There are 17 subsidiary tombs of nobles. Gao Zong’s tomb is still unopened, but five of the nobles’ tombs have been exhumed, as have those of Princess Yong Tai永泰公主 and Prince Zhang Huai张怀太子. Princess Yong Tai was a grand daughter of Emperor Gao Zong, who died at the age of 17. Her underground palace consists of an archway, courtyards and chambers. The ceiling of the archway is painted with dragons, tigers, and guards of honour in grand array, while the chamber ceilings are decorated with golden birds, rabbits, and a constellation. Ladies-in-waiting are picture on the wall. The murals are of a consistently high artistic level. Among the 1,300 burial objects are gold and silver articles, pottery and porcelain vessels and coloured figurines. Most of these objects are on display in the Qianling Museum.
Xianyang 咸阳市 - Zhaoling 昭陵全
Located some 80 kilometers north of Chang’an (now Xi’an) in Shaanxi Province, the tomb was built in 636, following the death of Empress Wende文德皇后. When construction on the Zhaoling Tomb began, Emperor Li Shimin ordered six steeds be sculpted, named Sa Luzi飒露紫, Quan Maogua拳毛騧, Shi Fachi, Bai Tiwu, Te Qinpiao, and Qing Zhui, in memory of the six horses, which served him in wars. Emperor Li loved these steeds very much because they had been with him fighting through numerous wars and had won decisive victories in the establishment of the Tang Dynasty. The stone horses were carved in various postures and look strong and vigorous. These stone horses, in the relief sculpture style of Buddhist artisan, carved on six stone screens, each 2 meters wide and 1.5 meters high, with skillful technique and simple style to create liveliness, are of great artistic value. The ancient relics drew great attention, not only from archaeologists and artists, but also from thieves and robbers. In 1914, an American stole and shipped two of the six stone horses, Sa Luzi and Quan Maogua, to the United States, which are now kept in the Museum of Pennsylvania University. In 1918, American thieves also took the remaining four stone horses. However, they didn’t go very far. The relics were reclaimed just as they were about to be shipped abroad. The treasures were sent back and have been kept in Xi’an Beilin Museum. To transport the horses more easily, the robbers broke them into pieces first, and some pieces were apparently left on the spot. In 636, after Empress Wende died, Li Shimin chose Mount Jiuzong九嵕山 as the site to build a mountain-like mausoleum. The construction of Zhaoling Mausoleum continued until 649 when Emperor Li Shimin died. The tomb was sealed after the Emperor was buried in the same tomb with his empress. The tomb took him 13 years to complete.
Among the 18 imperial tombs of the Tang Dynasty in central Shaanxi, where the dynasty’s capital area used to be, Zhaoling is the largest. The site reveals that a new method had been developed to use a hill as tomb site for dead imperial members in the Tang Dynasty. Taking a hill as a tomb site means choosing a natural peak of a mountain, chiseling a hole from the outside at the foot of the mountain to make a tunnel leading into the underground palace where the dead bodies were placed.
Zhaoling is some 60 kilometers in circumference, encompassing 20,000 hectares and surrounded by 167 satellite tombs, Emperor Li Shimin’s resting palace is located in the northernmost part of the cemetery, like the imperial palace in the northern Chang’an (now Xi’an) looking down at the other tombs from the peak. There used to be a large number of buildings in the Tomb, which have gradually disappeared. The only things left are a few remains like the scarlet-bird gate朱雀门, sacrificial hall献殿, sacrificial altar祭坛 and sima gate司马门, which have become presentday tourist attractions. The bas-relief sculpture stone horses were originally placed at the sacrificial altar and the archaeologists discovered the parts of the stone horses outside the ancient sacrificial altar and sima gate. Because the stone horses were broken into pieces, the arrows originally engraved on the horses are not clear, and the words of praise by Emperor Li Shimin and the horses’ names cannot be Seen easily. Fortunately the grave stones erected by You Shixiong, a well known literati and general in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) remain intact, which tell us the details of the relief sculpture, the names, the hair features and the deeds of the six horses engraved on the stones using a line drawing technique, and the message of praise written by Emperor Li Shimin for the horses. It was traditional to install steles in front of tombs and put epitaphs in the coffin chambers during the Tang Dynasty, so There are steles in front of most Zhaoling tombs each with an epitaph in almost every coffin chamber. These steles provide not only valuable material objects for Chinese calligraphy study, but also rare written data for further research in the Tang Dynasty.
Aside from the world famous six stone horses, the most important ancient relics discovered in Zhaoling are the pottery figurines. Large in number and rich in variety, these stones, wooden and pottery figurines carrying colourful paint and glaze provide valuable information for the study of Tang culture and art.
The Tang Dynasty was one of the most significant and prosperous of feudal societies in feudal China and Emperor Li Shimin was considered one of the most capable and able-known Mausoleum under heaven. In 1961, the State Council claimed it to be one of the most important historical monuments maintained under state protection, and Zhaoling Museum was built at the same time to house the unearthed ancient relics from the cemetery.