The Qianling Mausoleum is a Tang Dynasty (618-907) tomb site located in Qian County, Shaanxi province, China, and is 85 km (53 mi) northwest from Xi'an, formerly the Tang capital. Built by 684 (with additional construction until 706), the tombs of the mausoleum complex house the remains of various members of the royal Li family. This includes Emperor Gaozong of Tang (r. 649-83), as well as his wife, the Zhou Dynasty usurper and China's first (and only) governing empress Wu Zetian (r. 690-705).
The mausoleum is renowned for its many Tang Dynasty stone statues located above ground and the mural paintings adorning the subterranean walls of the tombs. Besides the main tumulus mound and underground tomb of Gaozong and Wu Zetian, there is a total of 17 smaller attendant tombs or peizang mu. Presently, only five of these attendant tombs have been excavated by archaeologists, three belonging to members of the royal family, one to a chancellor of China, and the other to a general of the left guard.
Spirit Way :
Leading into the mausoleum is a spirit way, which is flanked on both sides with stone statues like the later tombs of the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty Tombs. The Qianling statues include horses, winged horses, horses with grooms, lions, ostriches, officials, and foreign envoys. The khan of the Western Turks presented an ostrich to the Tang court in 620 and the Tushara Kingdom sent another in 650; in carved reliefs of Qianling dated c. 683, traditional Chinese phoenixes are modelled on the body of ostriches.
Historian Tonia Eckfeld states that the artistic emphasis on the exotic foreign tribute of the ostrich at the mausoleum was "a sign of the greatness of China and the Chinese emperor, not of the foreigners who sent them, or of the places from which they came". Eckfeld also asserts that the 61 statues of foreign diplomats sculpted in the 680s represents the "far-reaching power and international standing" of the Tang Dynasty.
The tomb chambers of Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu are located deep within Mount Liang, a trend that was set by Emperor Taizong of Tang (r. 626–49) with his burial at Mount Jiuzong. Of the 18 emperors of the Tang Dynasty, 14 of these had natural mountains serving as the earthen mounds for their tombs. Only members of the imperial family were allowed to have their tombs located within natural mountains; tombs for officials and nobles featured man-made tumulus mounds and tomb chambers that were totally underground. Children of the emperor were allowed to have truncated tumulus mounds as their burial place, but officials were only allowed conical-shaped pyramids for their burial sites.