Where was Emperor Qin Shi Huang buried?

For a long time, there have been two guesses about where Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259BC-210BC) was buried. Some people believe that he must be buried in the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, also known as the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. It is located at the north foot of Mount Li in Lintong District, 40 km (25 mi) northeast away from Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province. Other people hold that he was buried where he died. In 210 BC, when Emperor Qin Shi Huang was on the tour of inspecting east regions, he died of severe illness in Shaqiugong area, which is today’s Xingtai City, Hebei Province.

Guess 1: In the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum

Emperor Qin Shi Huang began to build his mausoleum once he came to the throne in 247 BC. After 39 years, the grand Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum was finally completed. Thus, it could be the most reasonable place to bury him. However, until now, the underground tomb in Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum has never been excavated. Thus, it is more of a guess than a fact that Emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried here.

Why was Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum built there?

1. The capital city in Qin Dynasty (221BC - 207BC) was Xianyang, which is now Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province. At that time, it was a tradition that the emperor should be buried near the capital city, and the location of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum fulfilled it.

2. Another rule in ancient times was that the mausoleum should nestle against a mountain. And Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum is ideally situated against Mount Li in the south and Wei River in the north. Such a delicate location was believed to represent Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s majesty.

3. More importantly, Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum’s location should obey the ancient ritual. During Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) and Qin Dynasty (221BC-207BC), seniors should be buried in the west side while juniors in the east. Since many of his ancestors were buried in Zhiyang area, Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum was supposed to be located east of Zhiyang, which is now the Lintong District of Xi’an City.

Guess 2: Somewhere in Xingtai City, Hebei Province – 4 Reasons

This guess is held by most people. Since Emperor Qin Shi Huang didn’t die in the capital city Xianyang, his prime minister Li Si buried him somewhere in his burial site in Shaqiugong area, where is now in Xingtai City, Hebei Province. People think that what was buried in Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum are simply Qin Shi Huang’s clothes and other belongings.

Reason 1. Qin Shihuiang’s death was kept as a secret

At that time, if the news of emperor’s death was spread to the capital city Xianyang, there could be rebellions launched by the opposition political forces. In addition, since Emperor Qin Shi Huang passed away in a sudden, he didn’t appoint any of his sons as the next emperor. Thus no one could control the situation. In order to minimize the possible political chaos, prime minister Li Si didn’t announce Qin Shi Huang’s death, buried the body secretly on site and found a person as a substitute to finish the rest of the inspection tour.

Reason 2. The dead body rotted very quickly

Emperor Qin Shi Huang died in July, which was the hottest month in Shaqiugong Area. Owing to the high temperature, Qin Shi Huang’s body stank and rotted very quickly. The stink was so strong that prime minister Li Si had to buy some rotten abalones to explain this unusual smell. At that time, it could take two to three months to transport Qin Shi Huang’s body back to Xianyang. However, under such hot weather, the dead body would definitely become skeletons before the burial. Thus, it was pointless for Li Si to transport it back to Xianyang.

Reason 3. There was no available wagon to transport the body

According to historical records, Emperor Qin Shi Huang had the height of 1.9m (6.2ft), thus his coffin would be larger than that. The problem was that the wagon at that time was too small to hide such a big coffin. And it was also not practicable to make a new wagon, which would arouse other people’s suspicion.

Reason 4. Inconvenient Road Condition

If the coffin was well hidden in the wagon, there could be another thorny issue. Some parts of the road from Shaqiugong to the capital city of Xianyang were very narrow and rocky, which was considerably inconvenient to transport huge and heavy coffin. Not to mention that such move was so conspicuous that the message of emperor’s death could easily leak. 

Therefore, burying Emperor Qin Shi Huang in Xingtai City, Hebei Province is a more plausible explanation.

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 Underground Palace of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum
 Why Don’t They Excavate the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum?
 Has Qin Shi Huang Tomb ever been robbed in the past?​
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- Last updated on Dec. 25, 2020 -
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