Palace in imperial tomb at Xi'an now revealed

Updated: 2012-12-02 07:53

By Ma Lie in Xi'an (China Daily)

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Archaeologists have found a large palace complex in the tomb of China's first feudal emperor in Xi'an, capital of the Shaanxi province. The site has been world-famous since the 1974 discovery of the Terracotta Warriors in the funerary pits.

A researcher on the excavation told Xinhua News Agency that the palace of Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC) was composed of 10 courtyard houses and a main building with a total area about one-fourth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Sun Weigang, associate researcher at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, also said archaeologists had worked on the ancient buildings since 2010 and found that the palace in the tomb is 690 meters long and 250 meters wide with a total area of about 170,000 square meters.

Despite warfare in late Qin (211-206 BC) and early Western Han (206 BC-AD24) dynasties and more than 2,000 years of natural destruction, basic relics including walls, sewers, doorways and rock roads remain intact, and even bricks and pottery pieces have been found.

Sun said that the plane-mapping diagram made by the archaeologists showed that the ancient complex had a central axis and a main building, a layout in accordance with traditional Chinese culture.

The historical record showed that Emperor Qin Shihuang planned the construction of his cemetery soon after he was enthroned, and the large cemetery and mausoleum showed that he wanted to continue his imperial life after his death.

The emperor, who was born Ying Zheng, came to the throne of the Qin at age 13 and took over the affairs of the state at age 22. By 211 BC, he annexed six rival principalities and established the first feudal empire in Chinese history.

The cemetery is located in Lintong district of Xi'an city, and the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors nearly four decades ago made it a hot tourism destination, visited by millions of tourists from home and abroad every year.

UNESCO declared the army a World Heritage Site in 1987, and archaeologists believe as many as 6,000 clay soldiers stand in the largest of three pits at the site, which continues to be excavated.

Archaeologists say that the newly discovered palace complex retains only its massive framework, but that largely intact pattern offers great value for the study of an ancient imperial palace and the development of human civilization.