Zhaoling is the mausoleum of Emperor Tai Zong (Li Shimin), the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. In 626 A. D, he came to the throne when it was abdicated by Gao Zu (Li Yuan). In the fol-lowing year, he changed the title of his reign to Zhenguan. He was in power for 23 years. During his rule there was a famous period of well being, the "Well-Managed Zhenguan Reign". In 636 A. D. , Empress Wen De died of an illness. According to her will, "she is to he buried against the mountain and the funeral should be econom-ical, and not so extravagant". Tai Zong chose Mt. Jiuzhong, 80km from Xl'an, as the construction started soon afterwards. In 649 A. D. , Tai Zong died of an illness and was buried together with Em-press Wen De in the same tomb. The tomb was completely sealed and the construction did come to a finish. Zhaoling stands on the hilltop of Mt. Jiuzhong, 20km north-east of Liquan County, in Shaanxi Province. This area is the largest burial site for dignitaries in China. In this area are the "18 tombs of the Tang Dynasty "on the Guanzhong Plain. Zhaoling was a mas-terpiece for tombs of its type. All the tombs of empresses, princes and ro. yal ministers were constructed against mountains. Using a mountain as the tomb site meant choosing a natural peak of a moun-tain, and chiseling a hole from the outside inward to form a pas-sage. At the foot of the mountain there would be built an under-ground palace. According to the data concerning Zhaoling, the tomb passage leading to the coffin chamber was about 230 meters long. Five strong gates were installed along the passage. The un-derground palace was spacious' and splendid, almost the same as that of Chang's City. Along both sides of the passage were the eastern and western rooms. Here therewere placed stone chests in which iron boxes (caskets) that contained burial objects were stored. On the mountain top there were buih houses and entertain-ment palaces for the tomb keepers. In order to solve the problem of the inconvenience of travelling up and down the mountain, plank roads were built along the cliffs. After over a thousand years of change, the large structures at the foot of Zhaoling disappeared without a trace. The only things left are a few small remaining structures, like the Scarlet-Bird Gate and the Sacrificial Hall to the south, and the Sacrificial Altar, the Sima Gate and the eastern and western rooms to the north, and the Imperial City to the south-west, where most of the houses were constructed. According to historical records, these buildings were burnt down. In 798 A. D. , 378 rooms were rebuilt. The upturned eaves of the palace, 1.5m high, 150kg in weight, were unearthed at the site of the Sacrificial Hall. From these house decorations, it is inferred that the palaces at that time were grand and magnificent.
Zhaoling Cemetery is 60km in circumference. It covers an area of 20,000 hectares and is surrounded by 167 satellite tombs. Em-peror Tai Zong's resting place is located in the northermost part of the cemetery. Like the imperial palace in the northern part of Chang'an, it looks down at the other tombs from the peak. Among the satellite tombs, those of Wei Zheng, Li Jing and Li Ji (Xu Mao-gong)were particularly unique. For example, Li Ji's tomb was built in the shape of three peaks, which represent the mountains, Qilian, Tieshan and Wudejian, where he had great military success. In front of the tomb was placed a pair of stone men. To the left of the tomb, there were three stone sheep and to the right, three stone tigers. The grave stone is 6. 65 metres high, and has Emperor Li Zhi's (Gao Zong's) own writings inscribed on it. These three tombs are extraordinary enough to show the contributions of the tomb masters and their special relationship with the Imperial Court in the Tang Dynasty. Among the tombs are those of generals of the minorities in the northwestern region. They all held important posi-tions during the Tang Dynasty. Several of them were even related to the royal family by marriage.The construction of Zhaoling was designed by a famous artist, Yah Lide, who lived in the Tang Dynasty. It showed a unique style in dimension and layout. The world-famous Six Zhaoling Bas-relief Stone Horses were carved and installed in the north wall of Zhaoling by Tang Tai Zong's instructions.


These six steeds had been with Li Shimin, a famous general through all of the fighting and were in-strumental in helping to win decisive victories for the unification of the Tang Dynasty. The stone horses were carved in various pos-tures and all look strong and vigorous.
The six stone horses reflect the relief sculpture of Buddhist artists, and were carved with skilled techniques and a simple style that creates liveliness. These stone carvings are of great artistic val-ue. Unfortunately, in the 1820's these pieces of art were de-stroyed. Two of the figures were stolen and shipped abroad, and are now kept in the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, USA. The other four were discovered, and taken back to Xl'an. They are on display in tile Forest of Tablets. In the course of the struggling, the six stone horses were broken into pieces. When the pieces were put back together, the arrows, on-graved on the horses, were not at all clear, and the words of praise by Tai Zong, and the horses's names, can not be clearly seen. For-tunately, the grave stones errected by You Shixiong, in the North-ern Song Dynasty, remained intact. The details of the relief sculp-ture, the names, the hair features, the deeds of the six horses, were engraved on the stones, with technical 'line drawing. So was recorded the whole content of the praise by Tai Zong for the horses. Placed along with the stone carvings of the six horses, at the altar, were stone statues of 14 dukes. These statues were also destroyed many years ago. Only the pedestals for the statues have remained. the Images of statues are still unknown so far, since they were not recorded in detail. From the information that is available, it is said "They are unusual". It is presumed that they were stronger and taller than ordinary beings.
During the Tang Dynasty, it was fashionable to install steles before tombs and to put epitaphs in coffin chambers. Therefore in front of most of the Zhaoling tombs there are steles and in almost every coffin chamber there is an epitaph. MoSt of these artifacts are now preserved in Zhaoling Museum.
The Tang Dynasty was the peak and the most prosperous of the feudal societies in China. Tang Tai Zong was considered the most capable and able-minded emperor of all. Therefore, Zhaoling was accepted as an important national monument and the Zhaoling Museum was built. It has received thousands of tourists, local and foreign, ever since.