BEIJING – China has unearthed the ruins of an ancient palace near the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the country’s first emperor, that was already famed for its terra-cotta soldiers, state media said Saturday.
The discovery is the latest at the mausoleum, which dates back more than two millenniums and became one of the greatest modern archaeological finds after a peasant digging a well stumbled upon the life-size warriors in 1974.
The palace “is the largest complex ever found at the cemetery,” the Xinhua news agency said, citing Sun Weigang, a researcher at the archaeology institute of northern Shaanxi Province, where the site is located.
Qin Shihuang, a ruler during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), presided over China’s unification and declared himself its first emperor.
The Qin ruler was based in Xianyang, near the city of Xian, which served as the seat of power for successive dynasties and is today a provincial capital and tourist spot due to its many historical sites.
Based on its foundations, the palace is believed to extend 690 by 250 meters, nearly a quarter of the size of Beijing’s iconic Forbidden City, Xinhua said, citing Sun.
The Forbidden City, located in the heart of the capital, served as an imperial palace for the Ming and Qing dynasties from the 14th through to the early 20th centuries.
The tomb-side palace in Shaanxi “showed Emperor Qin Shihuang’s wish to continue to live in imperial grandeur even during his afterlife,” Sun said.
The emperor ordered the building of the terra-cotta soldiers that surround the mausoleum in the hopes they would follow him into the afterlife.
As many as 6,000 are believed to stand in the largest of three pits at the site, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which declared the army a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Archaeologists uncovered 110 new warriors in June this year, along with 12 pottery horses, pieces of chariots, weapons and tools, as part of a three-year effort.
Leaning tower of China
An ancient Chinese tower tilting at a perilous angle has earned comparisons with Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa and worried a school in its shadow, state media reported Thursday.
The Wanshou Temple Tower in the central city of Xian, which dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), began to lean dramatically after a heavy rainstorm in May 2011, state-run China Radio National said.
Local authorities erected a steel frame to support the tower, which looms over the school athletics field.
The report said that school administrators were concerned because “strong winds or heavy rains could exacerbate the problem.”
School officials have asked authorities for assistance, the report said, although a local government official said the tower was stable at present and did not show any sign of further tilting.
“Everyone’s heard of the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. But who knew that China had its very own leaning tower?” the report said.
A member of staff at Xian’s Cultural Relics Bureau said her office is working on a plan to reinforce the tower, but that “we have a lot to do . . . and need to cooperate with other departments.”
The building faces stiff competition for the title of China’s leaning tower.
A slanting structure in southwest Sichuan Province and a 900-year-old pagoda in Shanghai, in the east, which leans at a steeper angle than Italy’s famous Tower of Pisa, also claim the honor.