Culture

The world's first tomb after all the hardships

Today, based on the second season of the documentary "China's Archaeological Mysteries", we will introduce you to the "Qianling Mausoleum", which is known as the first tomb in the world.

China is an ancient civilization with a history of more than 5,000 years, leaving many tombs of emperors and kings in the vast land of China, most of these tombs are huge and magnificent, and several of them are called "the first tomb in the world" by later generations. For example, the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor, located in the north of Huangling County, Yan'an City, Shaanxi Province, is rightly called "the first mausoleum in the world" because of the burial of the ancestor of the Chinese nation, Xuan Yuan Huangdi; the Mausoleum of Tai Hao (Fuxi Mausoleum), located in Huaiyang County, Zhoukou City, Henan Province, is buried with the ancestor of the Chinese humanities, Tai Hao Fuxi. Because Tai Hao Fu Xi is the first of the three emperors, his tomb is also known as the world's first tomb; the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, located in the Lintong District of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, is one of the world's largest, most peculiar structure, the richest connotation of the emperor's tomb, known as the "world's first tomb" is not too much.

The world's first tomb after all the hardships

Today I would like to introduce you to another imperial tomb, the Qianling Mausoleum. The Qianling Mausoleum is somewhat special, as it is the only one of its kind in China and abroad, because it contains two emperors and a couple (Emperor Li Zhi of the Tang Dynasty and Empress Wu Zetian of the Zhou Dynasty), so it is also known as the "first tomb in the world".

The Qianling Mausoleum is located on Liang Mountain in the northern part of Qian County, Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province. Liang Mountain is a conical limestone mountain, a total of three peaks, the highest in the North Peak, elevation 1047.9 meters, slop river around its east, the desert water around its west, Qianling Xuan Palace (tomb palace) is located in the North Peak on the mountainside. The mausoleum is built in the way of "mausoleum because of the mountain", by cutting the mountain and building the cave, and burying the excavated cave deep in the mountain. The two peaks to the south are lower and face each other from east to west, with the Sima Road in the middle. The mausoleum area is modeled after the capital city of Chang'an, and there are two cities inside and outside the mausoleum, with the north and south walls of the inner city each 1,450 meters long, the east wall 1,583 meters long, and the west wall 1,438 meters long, covering an area of nearly 2.4 million square meters. In addition to the main tomb, there are seventeen small accompanying tombs in the southeast of the mausoleum area, where some members of the royal family and meritorious officials are buried. The entire mausoleum area is 40 kilometers in circumference, with a total area of about 133 square kilometers. The Qianling Mausoleum is also one of the eighteen tombs of the Tang Dynasty in the Guanzhong region of Shaanxi.

The world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardships

In 683 A.D., Emperor Gaozong Li Zhi was already seriously ill and the power of the Tang Empire was already concentrated in the hands of the Empress Wu Zetian alone. She appointed Wei Zaiyu, the minister of the Ministry of Justice, to build Li Zhi's tomb, which was the Qianling Tomb. Before the tomb could be rebuilt, Li died on December 27th. In August of the following year, the Qianling tomb took shape and Li was buried in it. Queen Wu, who was already one step away from the emperor's throne, took a look at the scale of the Qianling Mausoleum and felt very dissatisfied, she ordered Wei to continue the construction of the price. When the Qianling tomb was built, it was at the height of the Tang dynasty, and the abundant national power could support the empress to build a magnificent and majestic tomb. In 690 A.D., Wu Zetian officially became a veritable empress, and at that time she paid more attention to the construction of the Qianling tomb. Since she had gained power and status during her lifetime, her resting place after her centenary must also be different. Under her supervision, the Qianling tomb took 28 years to complete, an unprecedented imperial mausoleum modeled after Chang'an City.

The world's first tomb after all the hardships

The mausoleum was built in the pattern of Chang'an City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty, and is divided into the Imperial City, the Palace City and the Outer City, with a main axis of 4.9 kilometers from north to south. According to Wang Pu's "The Essentials of Tang" from the Song Dynasty, the Qianling Mausoleum was "80 miles in circumference", with two original walls and four gates in the inner city: the Qinglong Gate in the east, the Zhuque Gate in the south, the Baihu Gate in the west, and the Xuanwu Gate in the north. Inside the city, there are many splendid architectural groups such as dedication halls, side rooms, corridors, queue buildings, more than 60 ancestral halls of courtiers such as Diren Ji, and the lower palace. The scale of the completed Qianling Mausoleum and its majestic architecture are considered to be the crown of all the imperial tombs.

On February 22, 705 A.D., Wu Zetian listened to her chancellor and friend Di Renjie and stepped down from the throne and returned the government to the Li Tang Dynasty. Her third son, Li Xian, ascended to the throne again as Emperor Zhongzong of Tang. Li Xian forgave his mother for her past mistakes, and the empress finally enjoyed the joy of family in her last days of life. On December 16, 705 A.D., at the age of 82, Wu Zetian went to be with her husband Li Zhi in the other world with contentment. Before her death, she instructed her son Li Xian to erect a wordless stone monument in front of her tomb, leaving her merits and faults for future generations to judge, trusting that history would give her a fair evaluation.

In May 706 AD, Li Xian buried Wu Zetian in the Qianling Tomb with the rituals of the Empress. He then reburied his elder brother Li Xian (Prince Zhang Huai), his son Li Chongrun (Prince Yi De) and his daughter Li Xianhui (Princess Yongtai), who had died unjustly during Wu Zetian's reign, in the southeast of the Qianling Mausoleum area, as a companion tomb to their parents' tombs. Later, the royal family members such as King Xu Li Sujie, King Ze Li Shangjin and Princess Yi Yang Li Xiaoyu were also buried in the accompanying tombs. Thus the scale of the Qianling Mausoleum area took shape.

The world's first tomb after all the hardships

The Qianling Tomb has endured many tomb raiders in the more than 1,200 years since it was built. In the historical record there were three large-scale excavation operations almost brought it to its doom, but each time the Qianling tomb was able to overcome the danger. It is a miracle in the history of archaeology that it has never been excavated until today.

In 881 A.D., Huang Chao's rebel army at the end of the Tang Dynasty invaded Chang'an, and Huang Chao personally led 400,000 people to excavate the Qianling Mausoleum. They found a large amount of rubble on the west side of the main peak of Mount Liang, so they thought the entrance of the Qianling Palace was nearby and started to dig frantically. However, they dug up half of Mount Liang but could not find the entrance to the palace, so they had to give up, leaving only a 40-meter-deep "Huang Chao trench". Because the rebels were less educated and the Qianling tomb was too strong, the soldiers could not figure out the internal structure of the tomb and dug in the wrong direction, and the tomb escaped a disaster.

During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, Wen Tao, the notorious Chinese tomb raider of the latter Liang, took advantage of his position to take advantage of the war to lead his men in a frenzied excavation of the emperor's tomb during his tenure as the YAOZHOU Festival Minister (equivalent to the commander of the Shaanxi military region today). He took advantage of his position and led his men to excavate the tombs of seventeen other Tang emperors in the Guanzhong region, even the Zhaomei tomb of Emperor Taizong Li Shimin. Only Wu Zetian's Qian Mausoleum escaped the calamity. After digging the tombs of other Tang emperors, Wen Tao led tens of thousands of men to dig the Qianling tomb in broad daylight. Whenever they went up the mountain to dig, the weather would be stormy with lightning and thunder, but as soon as they withdrew, the weather immediately turned sunny again. Such as the three, the men are afraid of up, and finally Wen Tao also afraid of being struck by lightning, so they had to stop.

The last large-scale excavation of the Qianling tomb was in the early years of the Republic of China, when warlords were at war and tomb raiding was the norm. Under the guise of protecting the tomb, the Kuomintang general Sun Lianzhong led his men to station at the tomb and used real guns and artillery drills to cover a division of soldiers to excavate the tomb. The soldiers blew up many places with explosives and almost found the three vertical stone bars at the entrance of the Qianling tomb, and were about to enter when another miraculous thing happened. A thick smoke suddenly emerged from the top of Mount Liang, swirling upward, followed by a gale, flying sand and rocks, and darkness in the sky. Seven soldiers of Shanxi origin were hit by flying rocks and vomited blood and died on the spot, where others dared to go in again. Then almost all of Sun Lianzhong's regiment died, and Sun Lianzhong hurriedly fled with his men and horses. Afterwards, folk were talking about this incident, and they said that because Wu Zetian and Li Tang were both from Shanxi, the Shanxi soldiers among the tomb robbers died first. This legend is inevitably exaggerated, but it is true that the Qianling tomb miraculously escaped another disaster.

The world's first tomb after all the hardships

In the 1950s and 1960s, another request was made to excavate the Qianling Mausoleum, and excavation work was prepared, to which Premier Zhou Enlai gave instructions that "we cannot finish the good work, but leave it to future generations. In 1957, Shaanxi Province announced the Qianling Mausoleum as "the first batch of key units of protection for famous monuments in Shaanxi Province", and in 1961, the State Council announced it as the first batch of national key units of protection for cultural relics. For more than 60 years, the government has been allocating funds for the maintenance and repair of the entire mausoleum. Today, many visitors come to see the magnificent stone sculptures of the Qianling Mausoleum and the accompanying tombs.

After a thousand years of vicissitudes, the buildings on the ground of the Qianling tomb have long been destroyed by war, but the tomb's proper grandeur has not been compromised. The two peaks on the south side of Mount Liang form a natural gate, and the wide Sima Road leads to the main tomb on the north peak. The Sima Road is about 4 kilometers long and is lined with huge groups of stone sculptures arranged in a regular pattern from the southern end of the Sima Road to the main tomb.

The first is a pair of eight-pronged stone wattles as high as 8 meters, which is the symbol of the emperor's tomb, and its shape indicates the concept of long life and the worship of reproduction by the ancients; then there is a pair of head held high, robust and fat stone carved with wings, the wings on both sides of the horses are carved with beautiful scrolling cloud pattern, four hooves stomping on the ground, solid and powerful, seemingly with the momentum of flight; north of the winged horses is a pair of high-relief ostrich, ostrich posture Vivid and lively. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, two ostriches were once tributed by the Tulip Kingdom of Central Asia (northern Afghanistan) during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang Dynasty. The stone ostriches were carved in front of the tomb as a symbol of the cultural exchange and friendship between the Tang Dynasty and the West; next to the ostriches are five pairs of stone war horses with handlers and ten pairs of stone figures with different postures about four meters high, which are said to be the prototypes of the Qin general Weng Zhong (or General Zhige). Weng Zhong had defeated the Xiongnu, after his death Qin Shi Huang cast a bronze statue of him, placed outside the Xianyang Palace, the Xiongnu envoys saw the image of Weng Zhong scared to kneel down and worship, later emperors have followed suit. So later people called the bronze or stone man standing in front of the palace, temple and tomb "Wengzhong".

The world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardships

Outside the four gates of the inner city of the mausoleum, there are also four pairs of tall and majestic stone lions crouching, with the most majestic one outside the Zhuque Gate at the south gate. This pair of stone lions with their heads held high, huge heads with manes, stare at wide mouths, two feet stretched out in front, the body crouched back, awe-inspiring and upright as Tarzan. The stone lions are placed in front of the mausoleum, adding to the sacred and inviolable majesty of the mausoleum.

On both sides of the Sima Road outside the Zhuque Gate, there are also 61 stone statues of people of the same size as real people, standing in four rows in the east and west. They were dressed differently from the officials of the Tang Dynasty, as seen from a stone figure with a remnant head, which had a large beard and the hair style of an exotic nation. Experts found that these stone figures were officials of minority groups under the Tang Dynasty and princes and envoys from neighboring countries who came to attend the funeral of Wu Zetian when she was buried, and Li Xian carved their images into stone statues in front of the tomb. On the back of the stone statues are engraved the country, official position and name, the present handwriting can be identified as "King of Mujukhan Siddhartha", "Sheng Yu-Tian King Yuchi (gem)", "Prince of Tuhuoluo hold Cap Dagan", "Mercian to make the move Li greedy Khan Dagan", "broadcast Xian City Lord He Fu Deyan" and other seven stone people. It is customary to call these stone figures "statues" and "statues of King Bin", also known as "61 statues of foreign ministers".

The world's first tomb after all the hardshipsThe world's first tomb after all the hardships

But unfortunately none of these stone statues has a head. Archaeologists have proved by studying a large amount of ancient literature that on January 23, 1556, a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 8-11 occurred in the area of Hua County, Shaanxi Province, during the 35th year of the Ming Dynasty (1556). Since the earthquake occurred at midnight, more than 800,000 people died in this disaster. The Qianling Mausoleum, which is only 100 kilometers away from Huaxian County, also suffered great damage as a result. This earthquake was the main reason for the breakage of the heads of these 61 stone statues. The material of these stone statues is not very strong, and there are some stone flaw in the stone, so when the strong earthquake came, the thinnest neck part of the stone statues broke in the violent shaking. Researchers deduce that the 61 stone statues are likely to be mostly destroyed in that earthquake, and a small number of them were destroyed in the war in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.

Although after 1200 years and the destruction of war, when people today see these majestic stone carving groups outside the Qianling Mausoleum, they are still infected by the grandeur of the Great Tang Dynasty, and we feel proud from the bottom of our hearts that our nation once had such a great dynasty and a great prosperous era!

Tomorrow, I will continue to tell you the strange and secret stories of Chinese archaeology, follow me every day to see the different ancient Chinese history and culture. If you like my article, you are welcome to like and forward it to let more people know about our splendid history and culture!