In the heart of Baoji city, located in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, lies the Qin Gong No.1 Tomb, an emblem of ancient grandeur and mystery. Spanning a vast expanse of 500 square meters, it holds the title as the largest pre-Qin Dynasty tomb (221BC-206BC) ever unearthed in China. The recent launch of a fresh excavation project has set in motion a renewed endeavor to unravel deeper secrets within this significant archaeological site.
Central to this new phase of exploration is the investigation of a captivating horse-carriage pit. According to Wang Meng, a seasoned archaeologist, the practice of interring “ancient vehicles” was a cultural mainstay, spanning epochs from the Shang Dynasty (c.1600BC-1046BC) right through to the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220). This burial tradition wasn’t merely symbolic but served as a marker of status. “Such pits are typically associated with tombs of significant stature. The presence of a horse-carriage pit acts as a determinant for archaeologists to gauge the tomb’s importance,” explained Wang.
The tomb, often referred to as the No.1 Tomb of King Qin, has historical ties that stretch back to the era of Qin Jinggong, the Emperor of the Qin vassal state, during the vibrant Spring and Autumn period (770BC-476BC).
The current horse-carriage pit, which is the centerpiece of the project, isn’t a newfound discovery. Originally detected in 1977, it boasts impressive dimensions, with a length of 87.6 meters and a depth of 14.5 meters. Among the constellation of burial sites, this pit stands unparalleled in size.
Its significance is further accentuated by the findings from earlier investigations carried out in 2019 and 2021. These explorations yielded a treasure trove of over 300 invaluable artifacts. Gold, bronze, jade, and bone objects were among the discoveries, each narrating tales of ancient craftsmanship and elegance. Particularly remarkable were over 20 gold artifacts, intricately engraved with motifs of birds, leaves, and tigers, showcasing the exquisite artistry of the time.
Offering his insights on these findings, archaeological connoisseur Xue Ruiming stated, “The array of artifacts underscores the tomb’s eminent status. It also serves as a testament to the remarkable inventiveness and artistic vision of the ancient Chinese craftsmen.”
In the annals of China’s archaeological pursuits, the Qin Gong No.1 Tomb occupies a singular place. A landmark discovery was a stone chime engraved with 180 Chinese characters, representing the oldest known instance of such a chime bearing inscriptions.
With this renewed phase of excavation, Wang Meng is optimistic about the implications for future studies. “This resurgence in archaeological pursuits can potentially pave the way for deeper insights into the funeral culture of the Qin Dynasty,” he observed.