Maoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty

Mao Ling, or Maoling Mausoleum, is the mausoleum of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Liu Che, which is about 12 kilometers west of Xingping City, 15 kilometers east of Xianyang City, and about 40 kilometers from Xian downtown area. Among the imperial mausoleums of the Han Dynasty, Maoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu is the largest one, and with the most lavish burial objects. According to historical records, the tomb contained a vast array of treasures, including golden items, and exquisite sculptures of different animals, earning it the title of “Chinese Pyramid”.

Maoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty
Maoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu

Overview of Maoling Mausoleum

Featuring a distinctive and solemn appearance, the Maoling Tomb resembles an inverted bushel, with its crust constructed of pounded earth. It boasts impressive dimensions, standing at 46.5 meters in height, 39.5 meters from east to west, and 35.5 meters from north to south, and with a circumference of 240 meters at the base.

The tomb yard is rectangular, spanning 430.87 meters from east to west and 414.87 meters from north to south, with walls approximately 5.8 meters thick at the base.

About Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty

Emperor Wu of Han named Liu Che (157–87 BC), was the fifth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty. During his reign of 54 years, the emperor implemented effective governance to consolidate the state and launched the country into unprecedented prosperity. Upon his death in 87 BC, Emperor Wu was buried at Maoling Mausoleum.

During the Han Dynasty, the tomb site was in the precinct of Mao Township of Huaili County, hence its name. It is now one of the cultural units of national importance under the protection of the state.

Tomb of Huo Qubing – An Accompanying Tomb in the Complex

In the surrounding areas of the Maoling Tomb, there are several subordinate tombs, including those of Lady Li, as well as the tombs of Wei Qing and Huo Qubing.

The Tomb of General Huo Qubing has been designated as a nationally significant site. In 1958, the Maoling Mausoleum Museum was established on the site of Huo Qubing Tomb, showcasing rich relics from the surrounding tombs.

Huo Qubing is a young militarist of the Western Han Dynasty. Following General Wei Qing on his expedition at the age of 18, he succeeded in crushing the Huns by fighting six decisive battles. He crowned as the great general due to his marvelous deeds in his military service. He died young of illness at the age of 24 only.

In commemoration of the marvelous merits of this young commander, Emperor Wu specially built a tomb for him, which was in the shape of the Qilian Mountain and also carved quite some large-sized stone statues and animals as decorations for the tomb. Among these stone carvings, some of the most famous ones are Flying Steed Stepping on a Hun, crouching and leaping horses, stone-statues, crouching tiger, lying elephant and ox, man seizing a bear, queer beast devouring a sheep and porcupine and fish and what not. The most renowned one of all is the Flying Steed Stepping on a Hun.

This batch of stone carvings, with new theme topics, all vivid and lifelike and chiseled out in simple yet serious style, represents highly the virile, broadened time spirit and the artistic style in the early days of the Western Han Dynasty. So far, they are the most well-preserved masterpieces of large-sized group stone-carvings left over from China’s ancient times.

Exhibits in Maoling Mausoleum Museum
Exhibits in Maoling Mausoleum Museum

Maoling Mausoleum Museum

In 1958, the Maoling Mausoleum Museum was established on the site of Hu Qubing Tomb, on the eastern side of the Maoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu.

One of the underrated museums around Xi’an, the museum is divided into East and West Halls. The West Hall focuses on excavated artifacts from around the mausoleum complex, with its exhibits with relatively higher value. Conversely, the East Hall displays fewer artifacts, most of which are donated by residents.

In the West Hall, visitors will be introduced to many artifacts indicating the life, culture, and history of the Han Dynasty. The major exhibits are bronze artifacts, iron, lacquer, and lead items. Many bronze pieces are adorned with gilding, silvering, or mixed metal, with inscriptions detailing their facts.

Additionally, the West Hall displays numerous animal pottery figurines, such as cows, dogs, pigs, chickens, ducks, bears, etc., providing insights into dietary habits during that era.

Exhibits in Maoling Museum
Exhibits in Maoling Museum

How to Get to Maoling Mausoleum

From Xi’an

Take the bus from Xian Bus Station to Maoling Intersection, then take a taxi or transfer to Bus No. 4 and No. 11 to get to the mausoleum.
Or, take a high-speed train from Xi’an Railway Station to Xingping Railway Station, then, take a taxi to get to the mausoleum.

From Xianyang

Take Bus No. 4 (Xianyang-Xingping) to Fu Jiaqiao Intersection, then, transfer to Bus No. 11 to get to the museum.

Other Imperial Mausoleums of the Han Dynasty

The Yangling Mausoleum of the Han Dynasty