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Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xian

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xian

World Cultural Heritage Site: Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (1987)

Comment from the World Heritage Committee

Many believe that the terracotta army would remain buried if it was not discovered in 1974. It is the site where the first Qin emperor, the unifier of China, was buried in 210 BC, surrounded by famous terracotta warriors, at the center of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan for the capital, called Xianyang. The small figures vary. With their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and  historical significance.


The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor Yinzheng is the place where Yinzheng, the first emperor in the Chinese history (259-210 BC) was buried. Located at the northern foot of Mount Li and 5 kilometers to the east of Lintong County, it was built in 246 BC and completed in 208 BC over a span of 39 years. It is known as the first large-scale imperial mausoleum in Chinese history.

The mausoleum compound is surrounded by dual rammed-earth walls that symbolize the wall of the imperial city and the wall of the royal court respectively. The tombs located in the south of the city inside the inner wall come in the shape of a bucket, 51 meters in height and over 1700 meters in bottom circumference. According to historical records, in the tombs are various palaces which house many priceless treasures. The tomb of the emperor is surrounded by other tombs and burial sites, among which over 4,000 have been identified.

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xian

The pits of the terracotta army located to the east of the mausoleum compound are smaller than the emperor’s tomb. Today, there are three identified pits that stretch from west to east. In these pits about 7,000 terracotta warriors, horses, chariots and weapons have been unearthed, which combine to represent the finest sculpting art of the Qin Dynasty. These pits are subterranean structures made of wood and rammed-earth, with an underground formation under the command of the emperor. According to their structures and equipments, Pit One was said to serve as the main force of the army with its infantry and chariots, while Pit Two was the hybrid force of infantry, cavalry and chariots. Lastly, Pit Three was the command post leading the previous two pits.

In December 1980, on the west side of the mausoleum unearthed two sets of large color bronze chariots, which are known to be the earliest, largest, most complex and exquisite bronze chariots discovered in China. They add charm to the terracotta army and contribute to the splendor of the imperial mausoleum, serving as physical evidence for history, forging techniques and chariot specifications from the Qin Dynasty. As a result, they have been hailed as the most important among all the ancient bronze items unearthed in China.

The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is known as one of the largest imperial mausoleums in the world with unique structure and rich implications. Its terracotta army is considered as a cultural treasure of the world’s human civilization, thought to rival the pyramids in Egypt and the colored sculptures of ancient Greece. The discovery of the site itself is considered China’s most marvelous archeological achievement in the 20th century. It depicts the talents of ancient Chinese that lived over 2,000 years ago, known as the source of pride and wealth for the Chinese nation.

Cultural Heritages

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xian

One of the World’s Largest Imperial Mausoleums

The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is known as one of the largest imperial mausoleums in the world with unique structures and designs. It is a grand, underground palace complex.

The Eighth Wonder in the World

It is said by heads of states and experts outside of China after their visit to the Terracotta Army that the discovery is one of the eighth wonders in the world. It is considered a cultural treasure of human civilization, thought to rival the pyramids in Egypt and the sculptures of ancient Greece.

An Archeological Discovery of Worldwide Interest

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xian

In 1974, Chinese archeologists excavated over 7,000 pieces of terracotta figures that were buried underground for thousands of years. The excavation is said to be the most spectacular achievement of the 20th century. The terracotta figures are unprecedented in history due to their size and quality. They serve as physical evidence for studying military, politics, economy, culture, science and arts of the Qin Dynasty. They are precious art pieces and cultural heritages cherished by people around the world.

An Art Treasure Trove of Clay Figurines

The terracotta soldiers were made to portray real people, featuring sculpting techniques, clear lines and detailed facial expressions and gestures. They are said to bear resemblance to the personalities of the soldiers back then. They add a human touch to the history of Chinese civilization while opening the door to a new phase of art history.