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Sculpture in Qianling Mausoleum

The sculpture of Qianling Mausoleum is the main relic of the ground building of the joint mausoleum for Li Zhi, Emperor Gaozong of Tang Dynasty, and Wu Zetian, the only empress in Chinese history.

Only 114 pieces of stone carvings remain in the Qingling Mausoleum: one pair of stone lions in front of each of the four doors in the inner town of the original tomb;  one pair of stone horses in the north door (originally three pair); the rest stone carvings are allocated symmetrically in the two sides of the divine path. From south to north, there is one pair of eight-edge ornamental columns, one pair of winged horses, one pair of ostriches, one pair of stone horses, three stone figuring pulling horses in two sides, ten pair of officials and generals, two monuments, sixty statues of ethnic groups and foreign envoys (originally sixty-one, now one statue is absent). The most important ones are the Emperor's Stele to pay a tribute to the political achievements of Tang Gaozong and the Wordless Stele's of the female emperor Wu Zetian as well as sixty-one stone statues with different gestures.

Qianling stone sculpture is quite impressive in terms of quantity and themes. The sculpture adopts the traditional methods of combining line carving, half demirelievo and relievo, and absorbs the art styles of West Asia and Greek. The image building is the combination of symbolism and romanticism.

The Qianling sculptures vary in forms, height, and special allocation, thus create the grandeur of the entire tomb area. The figures and the animal images, in addition to their symbolic function of the escorting and the ceremonial team, serve to illustrate the theme the entire Qianling Mausoleum conveys - the power of the feudal kingship and the unity of the world. In particular there are the image that cannot be found in the previous imperial tombs, such as the winged horses, ostrich and official statues from foreign countries, thus displaying the grand manner of the Tang emperor when receiving the foreign envoys.

The overall layout of the Qianling Mausoleum is grand in scale and has more deterrent force than those of the previous dynasties, which settles the mode of the mausoleum building in Tang dynasty.


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