Part 6. Zhaoling Mausoleum: New types of Tombs
After the Han Dynasty the emperors began to construct new types of tombs. Large soil pyramids were changed into burial underground complexes situated in the mountains everywhere in Shaanxi province.
It happened during the reign of the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty. During the Tang period (626-907 AD) Chinese civilization excelled in culture, economy and international trade. It was a “golden age” for Chinese Buddhism and the Silk Road, The capital of China Chang’an which means “inner peace” (now Xi’an “western peace”) was one of the biggest cities in the world like Rome and Constantinople. Xi’an was surrounded by two very long city walls: outer and inner (central), four great imperial palaces and many gardens showed the power of the Chinese emperor.
The mausoleums were bigger and they were an imitation of the capital Chang’an. All mausoleums were decorated with paintings and great stones sculptures. There are 18 imperial mausoleums of the Tang Dynasty. Only four have a pyramidal form. The other 14 are chamber-caves tunnelled into the middle of the mountains. Tang mausoleums are situated at high altitudes of Shaanxi province.
The Zhaoling mausoleum is a large tombs complex for the first emperor of Tang Dynasty Taizong (who reigned from 626-649 AD) and his Empress Changsun. Zhaoling is situated at the bottom of Jiujun Mountain, covering an area of 49.42 acres, 60 kilometres (37.2 miles) in perimeter. It is the first and the biggest mausoleum of all the Tang Dynasty which had ever been built into a mountain. Historical records show that the construction of the mausoleum lasted for 30 years.
Unfortunately there is nothing interesting to see now because the authorities have been carrying out huge restoration work here for two years. I couldn’t figure out where the emperor’s tomb’s entrance was. A map of the restoration shows that outer constructions remained; a long platform with some terraces and interesting structures (chambers) are situated under this construction.
I saw many little circle (!) pyramids constructed from soil in the vicinity of this mountain, all of them are a parts of the Zhaoling mausoleum. They say that they are the tombs of concubines or high officials but nobody knows exactly.
The Jiujin Mountain is the highest rock peak in the area surrounded by natural valleys and canyons modified by people for agricultural or aesthetic reasons. I observed some very interesting stone formations half way from the bottom to the top of the mountain. They looked like three manmade terraces specifically constructed from the rock. The surface of every terrace was very equal and straight. I found some tool marks on the surface of one stone plate. May be those marks were made by local people some years ago or even thousands of years ago. Who knows?
So, it was a long and fascinating trip to the picturesque surroundings of Shaanxi province approximately 130 km from Xi’an. The local people were very impressed to see a western man in the area where there is no highway only small, but well built, village roads, dotted with one storey buildings constructed from clay bricks and acres of apple trees.