The Qianling Mausoleum

Located about 87km northwest to Xian City the mausoleum is a co-burial place of Emperor Gaozong(governed China from 649-683) and his queen Wu Zetian, who governed China for 15 years after death of Empress Gaozong Empress. Since the whole hill is the site of the mausoleum it looks very grandiose and magnificent. Consisting of three peaks the main peak at the north stands some 1, 047. 9 meters high with the other two smaller peaks on the east and west, that being lower and a little to the south and opposite each other, look very much like teats, hence known as the “Teat Peaks. ” Getting into the entrance there sees a flight of some 537 steps, which, paved with stone-slates, has an upward inclination of 81.68 meters and this is followed by a somewhat flat road for approaching the mausoleum shared by Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian, his queen.

On both sides of Sacred Way there stand horses and camels, each having a pair and five pairs of stone-horses and 10 couples of stone figures as well as a couple of stone-steles. The stele on the east is the renowned “Wordless Tablet” and that on the west the tablet recording the meritorious deeds of his majesty Emperor Gaozong. In addition, there are still 61 headless stone-figures of resign envoys, a couple of stone-lions and the mausoleum is accompanied with 17 subordinate tombs in its surrounding areas.

Xian-Qianling Mausoleum
Qianling Mausoleum

The “Tombstone to Emperor Gaozong, ” standing two meters high, was erected by his queen, Emperor Wu Zetian but unfortunately the original one had been destroyed and the present one was re-erected in the period of Qianlong’s reign of the Qing Dynasty. To the right in front there’s another tombstone, the inscription of which was written by the late Guo Moruo, which reads:  “Mausoleum of Emperor Gaozong and His Majesty Empress Zetian, ” totaling 12 big characters in Chinese.

The “Tablet Record of His Majesty Emperor Gaozong,” alias known as the “ Seven Sectioned Tablets,” was erected by Emperor Wu Zetian to take down notes about the virtuous merits and deeds of Emperor Gaozong. Standing 6. 3 meters high and 1. 86 meters wide the tablet is covered with a gambrel shade on tap of the five-sectioned tablet-torso standing on a plinth engraved with various pattern of animals. Engraved on the tablet torso was an epitaph of more than 8, 000 characters relating the merits and deeds of Emperor Gaozong. It was autographed by Empress Wu Zetian but in Emperor Zhongzong’s handwriting. However, with the elapse of over thousand years most of the carved characters were weathered and eroded with only a few words remained on the first, second and fourth facades while the third face was left wordless to our great pity. The “Wordless Tablet,” that is to say, there’s not a single word on it. It is said that Empress Wu had a will: “Merits and achievements or not, let the latecomers to make their comments. ” So the tablet was left blank and empty. Empress Wu didn’t write any biography for herself. Merits or faults, exploits or setbacks of centuries old, the latecomers now do have made some comments and criticisms on it and so the Worldless Tablet is now covered with scratches and scrawls. They are the leftovers ever since the Song and Kin dynasties. As to the 61 stone-figures they represent the princes and envoys dispatched by various countries to Chang’an, who followed the funeral procession all the way to the mausoleum to express their condolences on the passing away of Emperor Gaozong. To commemorate this grand occasion Empress Wu had their images cut into life-size stone figures to be aligned on both sides of the passageway. Vivid and lifelike, every figure is decently robed and girdled, standing there in dignified solemnity. Unfortunately all heads of these stone figures were chopped off, for reasons of which opinions vary a lot.

Xian-Qianling Mausoleum
Qianling Mausoleum

Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu, the two emperors buried together in one tomb. This is the first and only case in Chinese history and even quite a rare one in the world. However, the co-buried mausoleum has not been robbed so far. Xi’an used to be an ancient capital of 13 ancient dynasties and there left over a great many tombs of kings and emperors. Many of them were robbed or ransacked and even the mausoleum of Qinshihuang was subject to robbery. Nevertheless, this mausoleum is the only exception remaining untouched. From 1966 to 1971 archaeologists made many prospects and explorations on the tomb and found the tomb to be very solid. From the entrance to the tomb gate the tomb passage, extending 631 meters long and 3. 9 meters wide, consists of 39 sections that were all blocked up with stone-slates, all being fastened and riveted with iron-sheets and also with molten iron poured into seams. The find-out corresponds to what were recorded in the documents and from this we can come to a conclusion that the tomb is really quite difficult to be excavated.

The mausoleum is divided into the inner city and outer city. The tomb is located in the mountainside of Liangshan Mountain in the center of the inner city. In the south of the mausoleum, there are three gates. The border of the inner city is square with 1,450 meters in length. The wall of the city is built of earth. In front of each gate there are three watchtowers: one big and two small. Large-scale carved stone groups stand in the mausoleum between the second and the third gate. There are ornamental columns, winged beasts, ostriches, saddled horses led by grooms, unlettered monument, holy merit recording monument and 61 human statues, totaling more than 100 pieces.

In the southeast of the Qianling Mausoleum there is a group of satellite tombs scattering around. These tombs include the tombs of Prince Zhanghuai, Prince Yide, King Ze (Shangjin), King Xu (Sujie), King Fen (Shouli), Princess Yiyang, Princess Xindu, Princess Yongtai, Princess Anxing, King Tejin (Jishan), Li Jinxing, Liu Shenli, Xue Yuanchao, Di Renjie and so on. From 1960 to 1972, the Cultural Relics Management Committee of Shaanxi Province excavated five tombs, including the tombs of Princess Yongtai, Prince Zhanghuai, Prince Yide, Li Jinxing and Xue Yuanchao. They are all the tombs of the royal relatives and the important ministers in the court. Highlight of these subordinate tombs are murals that reflect recreational activities and imperial court life in the Tang Dynasty.

Qianling Mausoleum
Qianling Mausoleum

Entrance fee: March 1st-November 31th: RMB122 per person; December 1st-Feburary 28th (29th): RMB82 per person

Opening hours: March -November: 08:00-18:00 December- February: 08:30-17:30

Public transportation: Take bus 游2 on east square of Xian train station and get off at Qianling Mausoleum. The bus is only available in the morning at 07:00.

Tours including Qianling Mausoleum:

Xian Qianling Mausoleum and Famen Temple Day Tour

Qinaling and Xianyang Museum Day Tour