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Xian Qianling Tomb

Qianling Mausoleum Satellite Tombs

The reign of the Tang Dynasty lasted for about 300 years from 618 to 907 AD. About 80 kilometers northwest of Xian city lies the tombs of the Tang Dynasty. Of all the tombs built here, Qianling is the largest and most splendid. Buried here is Emperor Gaozong (628-683), and his empress Wu Zetian (624-705), who is one of the famous three women rules in Chinese history. Wu Zetian was the only female to hold the title of Emperor, which she took over after the dead of her husband.

empress wu zetian
Wu Zetian

Qianling Mausoleum also includes seventeen satellite tombs of prominent Tang princes and ministers. Of the 17 satellite tombs around Qianling in Xian city, the most exquisite and finely decorated is the tomb of Princess Yongtai.

Tomb of Princess Yongtai

Princess Yongtai was the daughter of the Tang emperor Zhongzong, and was the grand daughter of Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian. She was married to Wu Zetian's nephew Wu Yanji.

Princess Yongtai died at a young age of seventeen - according to her epitaph, she died during childbirth; however, historical records show that she was put to death from orders of her grand mother Empress Wu Zetian. According to historians, this would not be uncommon for the cruel empress who even banished her own son, Crown prince Zhanghuai to Sichuan province, and then later forced him to commit suicide.

Princess Yongtai's tomb was excavated between 1960 and 1962. The tomb is a pyramid structure that is 88 meters long and 4 meters wide. It consists of a burial chamber and a passageway. There are a variety of funeral offerings, including valuable relics such as gold and silver items, porcelain, art work, ceramics, and much more.

The burial chamber is made to resemble her residence in life. It includes a large stone tablet recording her life's story. The passage walls are painted with murals, and the paintings lining the passage way features uniformed guards, tigers, and dragons.

Tomb of Crown Prince Yide

Another excavated tomb is the tomb of Prince Yide. From the excavations made at some of the seventeen satellite tombs, it was discovered that the tombs are all similar in construction featuring a surrounding outer wall, stone columns, and human and animal sculptures. Inside each tomb are passage ways painted with murals leading to the main coffin chamber.

Prince Yide is the first son of Li Xian, who was the fourth Tang dynasty emperor. Prince Yide openly showed contempt for the ruthlessness of Empress Wu Zetian, and the Empress had him executed at the age of nineteen.

Inside Prince Yide's tomb, there is a large mural painting on the walls, which depicts many honor guards, and the paints reflect the high social status of the prince. For example, in the tombs of Prince Zhanghuai and Princess Yongtai, the mural paints portrayed honor guards carrying 14 and 12 halberd - but in the tomb of Prince Yide, the honor guards are carrying 48 halberds, just like what you would find in an emperor's tomb.

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