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Zhaoling Mausoleum

Written by Ruru ZhouUpdated Nov. 12, 2021

The Zhaoling Mausoleum (昭陵) area is a large burial complex that contains the mausoleum of Li Shimin (599-649) who was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). His mausoleum is also where his wife Xiaoduanwen was buried. There are about 190 other tombs and mausoleums of family and clan members and Tang officials near this central mausoleum in a large mausoleum complex covering about 90 square miles or about 200 square kilometers. The mausoleum is on a small mountain called Jiuzong Mountain. While touring the mausoleum area, visitors can also visit a museum that was built on the Jiuzong Mountain called the Zhaoling Museum.

See our Xi'an tours to visit Zhaoling Mausoleum and museum, and to leran more of Tang Dynasty, the most powerful dynasty in Chinese history.

Li Shimin's History

Li Shimin was the main founder of the large Tang Empire that reopened trade with the west. The empire was stable and prosperous by the end of his reign and for decades after that. So later leaders looked to him as an example of government. He established his power by disposing his father and killing his two brothers by surprise and killing and defeating other rivals. He also waged several wars with neighboring people and succeeded in adding much territory in the northwest and establishing trade on the northern Silk Road, but costly wars against Goguryeo failed and cost him his health.

His father was Li Yuan. At the end of the Sui Empire (581-618), Li Yuan and his family were the main rebel leaders in the north as the entire Sui Empire ended in rebellions and wars. The Sui rulers were ruthless and forced the people to build mammoth construction projects and serve in their foreign wars, so they became unpopular and people rebelled. A major engineering achievement of the Sui Dynasty that added to the strength of the early Tang Empire was the Grand Canal that was built by the labor of millions of workers. The Grand Canal is the longest canal in the world, and the economy and speed of transportation added to the Tang Empire's prosperity and helped the Tang rulers subdue the empire.

In 626, Li Shimin became the emperor. He lived for a relatively long time. He was known as the Emperor Taizong (Great Religion). During his reign, the empire prospered. The Gokturks in Central Asia were defeated, and the Tang Empire expanded westward. The Silk Road trade enriched the empire financially and culturally. Both Buddhist and Christian Western Asians came to teach in the capital of Chang'an (Xi'an). He promoted Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity in the Tang Empire. The Emperor Taizong also instituted a legal code that served as a model for following eras and for the governments of other countries such as Korea and Japan. As the Silk Road trade flourished, the Taizong Emperor received foreign emissaries in Chang'an. He died in 649 and was buried where his wife was buried before him.

His policies shaped the empire and its government, culture and religion. There was a period of relative pace and prosperity after he died. A census taken about 100 years later shows that the population of the empire had grown to equal the population of the Western Han Empire that existed about 500 years previously. Chang'an became the first or second largest city in the world. For these reasons, Li Shimin is thought of as one of the greatest of the emperors because his policies and ruling strategies are thought to have stabilized the Tang Empire. Continue to read information on Tang Dynasty.

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Zhaoling Museum

A museum on Jiuzong Mountain displays artifacts found in the various tombs and mausoleums in the Zhaoling Mausoleum area. The museum was opened in 1978. There are thousands of objects. There are ceramic tomb figurines, pottery, and other artifacts. There are also murals from the Tang tombs. Many of the figurines and murals are well preserved and show what life was like 1,400 years ago. Big stone tablets that were outside of many tomb areas are on display.

Travel: Buses go to the area from the Xi'an West Passenger Bus Station. The Zhaoling Mausoleum area is about 85 kilometers from Xi'an.

Fee: 20 RMB

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