Location: On the road to Xianyang International Airport, north suburb of Xi’an
Host: Emperor Jingdi of Han
Yangling Mausoleum is the tomb of Emperor Jingdi (r. 157~141 BC) of Han, the fourth emperor of Western Han Dynasty. The Emperor’s reign boasts being part of a period of model “benevolent governance” in Imperial China, known as “the Rule of Wendi and Jingdi”.
A model of the whole Yangling Mausoleum, the "pyramid" earth mound in the middle is the Emperor's tomb, surrounded by burial pits and tombs radiating from its foot.
Emperor Jingdi’s mausoleum is no less pompous than any other Han Dynasty mausoleums. The burial custom of “attending to the dead as if attending to the living” is well illustrated. The emperor and empress’ tomb faces east (then the preferred direction for the honored), surrounded by 81 burial pits radiating from the tomb and numerous ritual structures. The “spirit path” is as wide as 110 meters, flanked by hundreds of satellite tombs of the Emperor’s officials and kinsmen, representing the grandeur of the Emperor presiding over an imperial meeting.
Though Yangling Mausoleum was not spared from grave robbery, its tomb complex has been a better preserved of all Han Dynasty mausoleums. Most of the excavations from the Yangling Mausoleum are now being preserved and displayed in the unique Yangling Mausoleum Museum based on the site. The Museum boasts advanced modern facilities for preserving and exhibiting ancient relics. The underground exhibition hall is paved with glass floors, enabling the visitor to get close to the relics as they are.
Of particular interest is a program offered by the Museum – simulated archaeological excavation. With an extra fee and pre-booking, museum staff will teach and guide the visitors to experience in person an excavation.
In the underground exhibition hall, visitors watch the excavated articles through the glass floor.
Tourists experiencing the archaeological excavation work in person.
Articles excavated from the Yangling Mausoleum are many and varied. The Emperor advocated frugality, and most of the excavated items are made of pottery. There are daily utensils such as water and wine containers and kitchen utensils, construction materials, and, most impressively, pottery figurines of warriors, court maidens and servants, and animals. The pottery figurines amount to several thousand. Facial expressions of the human figurines are diverse, more relaxed and lively than those of the Terra Cotta Warriors found at Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum.
Most human figurines unearthed at Yangling Mausoleum, male or female, are armless nude bodies. They had originally been fitted with movable wooden arms and dressed which then decayed through thousands of years.
Animal figurines: flocks of strong and tough cattle, shrewd dogs, cocks, pigs, sheep, etc.
Some pottery items excavated at Yangling Mausoleum.
Note the facial expressions of the figurines when visiting. Sculptures that feature human faces in a faithful style were rare in early Chinese art. The excavations at Yangling Mausoleum are precious in this sense.
The earliest smiling face in Chinese sculpture art, as if singing praise of the peace and prosperity during the Emperor’s reign.
A Terra Cotta Warrior. Compared with their stern faces, those unearthed at Yangling Mausoleum appear more relaxed and lively.
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