Has Qin Shi Huang Tomb ever been robbed in the past?

The Qin Shi Huang Tomb in this article refers to the Underground Palace of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, that is, the place where the coffin of Qin Shi Huang is placed, rather than the whole Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum. There are two different views on whether the tomb of the First Qin Emperor was robbed or not. One view is that the Qin Shi Huang Tomb has indeed encountered robbery; another view is that so far, there is no sign that someone has entered the Underground Palace of Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum.
 

Why do people think Qin Shi Huang Tomb has ever been robbed?

1. Han Dynasty “Historical Records” show that Xiang Yu destroyed the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum.

According to “Historical Records” written by Sima Qian in Western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD), Xiang Yu who overthrew the Qin Dynasty once excavated the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor with 300,000 soldiers and plundered a large number of buried treasures, which were transported for over 30 days. He also set fire to the ground buildings and there are still broken bricks, tiles, charcoal ashes and burnt earth on the ground of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum.
 

2. Historical records of Song Dynasty said so.

According to historical materials of Song Dynasty, from late Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) to Five Dynasties and Ten States (907 - 960 AD), 28 royal mausoleums including the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum had been stolen and seriously damaged, which were rebuilt in the early Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). So people speculate that the current Qin Shi Huang Tomb had been rebuilt over 1,000 years ago after being robbed, not the original building of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC).
 

3. There are traces of theft in the accessory pits of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum.

In 2012, archaeologists found a large number of traces of fire and flooding in the pits of Terracotta Army, a main part of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, and many traces of hook and chop on the body of the terracotta warriors. It can be inferred that someone did destroy some of those pottery figurines and then burn them in a big fire, maybe Xiangyu, maybe others.
 

Reasons why people think Qin Shi Huang Tomb has never been robbed.

1. There are no signs of the theft inside Qin Shi Huang Tomb.

In order to explore the Underground Palace of Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb, the archaeological team used remote sensing and geophysical methods. Probing data shows that there are 4-meter-thick (13 feet) walls around the underground palace, which are also surrounded by bricks. The team found several tunnels leading to the underground palace, and found that the soil in the tunnels was not damaged by human disturbance. They also found some stealing holes, but they were far from and never led to the underground palace.
 
In addition, archaeological team found that there were high levels of mercury detected in the Underground Palace of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, which was a strong evidence that Qin Shi Huang Tomb had not been robbed. Because once the underground palace was stolen, the mercury would evaporate along the stealing holes.
 

2. Destruction of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum does not mean destruction of the Underground Palace.

Historical records and modern excavation show us that the ground parts of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum and some of the accessory pits were damaged. But the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor occupies a large area and has extremely complex structure. Xiang Yu's army may had never found a way to enter the underground palace, only destroying some accessory pits.
 

3. The historical records cannot be believed completely.

In 1984, the former leader of the archaeological team of the Terracotta Warriors Museum published an article asking questions about the historical records of the “Robbed Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum”. He thought that if the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb was really robbed at that time, that was to say, as mentioned above, 300,000 people transported the treasures in more than 30 days, then why hasn’t any historical relics of Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb ever appeared in the public? It seems that the historical records are still worth studying.
 
Actually, it can only be known whether the Qin Shi Huang Tomb has been robbed or not after excavation. Unfortunately, there is no way for our generation to know, because with today’s technology, excavation means destruction.
 
- Last modified on Dec. 25, 2020 -
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