Stone bust image
Clay minature warior


Most of the Qin artefacts archaeologists and historians study today have come from in and around Qin Sh Hhuangdi's tomb and mausoleum or from the ancient city of Pingyao (Ping Tao) in Qin times.

The history of the mausoleum began when Shi Huangdi became the King of Qin at age 13. Concerned about making sure he was immortal he set about providing himself with everything he might need for the after life - very similar thinking to the Egyptian Pharoahs.

When he became Emperor Shi Huangdi forced more than 700 000 conscripts to work on the site over a period of 38 years and yet it was unfinished at the time of his death.

The mound built over the tomb was originally 115 metres high. The base of the mound is 345 metres from east to west and 350 metres from north to south. The mound was originally contained within an outer and an inner city wall with towers above the gates. There was a sacrificial palace and other buildings. Although most of these buildings have now disappeared the evidence of their foundations is still there.

A large area of 56.25 square kilometers around the tomb mound contains artefacts from the Qin period and is a representation of the emperor's life with carriage houses, a hunting ground with rare birds and animals in it, musical instruments and statues of court ladies. Not everything has been excavated and the work will continue for many decades. Shi Huangdi's tomb mound, Mt. Li

Historians had read about the site as it was written about by Sima Qian of the Han dynasty but his words were taken to be very imaginative until in 1974, peasants sinking a well found lifesize terracotta figures. The rest is history.

Pingyao is to the north of Xian and Luoyang and was first made an independent county (administrative area) under the Qin Empire. Although most of the buildings there today are from the 10th to 16th century, there is still evidence of the way buildings were constructed in Qin times. Pingyao has a very long history and many artefacts have been found them relating to the Qin and Han periods but also much earlier.

Central city tower, Pingyao, Shanxi Province

This is the central tower of Pingyao, Shanxi Province. It is made of wood and is five floors above the two storied houses in the old city.

On top there was a container or cauldron for a fire to burn in at night (now converted into a red light) which could be seen over the walls of the city. It was used to guide travellers into the city at night as they moved across the empire.



One of the richest sources of information about the Qin dynasty, besides the Emperor's tomb (and remember that most of it has not been excavated yet) are the tombs of other people buried during that period. It was common for even the poorest person to be buried with something from their daily lives so that they could take it with them to the after life. For those wealthy enough they could have clay models made of these objects. Other people had wood replicas buried with them. Below are some clay representations of everyday items found in various locations.

Model of a clay oven now in the Luoyang Museum, Henan Province This is a model of a clay oven now in the Luoyang Museum, Henan Province
This pot was designed to hold wine. It is 56 cm high and is 19 cm across the mouth of the vessel. The pot itself weighs over 19 kg. It originated in the Anyi state - one of the states conquered by the Qin. It is to be found now in the Xianyang City Museum, Xianyang. Bronze pot from Xianyang City Museum, Xianyang
Bronze pot from the Xianyang City Museum
This pot is also in the Xianyang City Museum. It is made out of bronze and was made to hold liquids.
These are a selection of painted clay pots currently held in the Luoyang Museum. The top row have lids and would have been storage pots. The front three on the left are open pots used for the temporary holding of liquids. On the right on the front row is a closed circular container - use unknown. Painted clay pots now in the Luoyang Museum
Plates and serving dishes of the Qin period. On the left is a pottery plate from the Qin period. The four containers on the right are serving dishes. All are held currently in the Luoyang Museum.
These grinding stones for grain (probably millet, the most common grain in the central and north western area, can be found in the Shaanxi Museum, Xian Grinding stones for grain, probably millet, the most common grain in this area
Clay model of a well This clay model of a well is held at the Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou



One of the first things the Emperor did was to set up a standard for weights and measures. Because he had conquered six other, different states, each had its own coins, language, writing and even weights and measures. Because the Emperor was legalist by interest, ie he wanted everything run by the law not by the way it had always been done, he set about making everything common.

A bucket from the very early Han dynasty (probably Qin) at the Xie Tong Qing Museum, Pingyao

This bucket, made out of bronze and iron, was used to weigh grain and represented approximately one bushel in imperial measurements. Photo from the Xie Tong Qing Museum, Pingyao. This weight was used all across the Empire.

Linear measurements were also standardized.

Facts and Figures Facts and Figures

The Qin units of length were

The Qin units of volume were

The Qin units of weight were



Qin coins from the Luoyang Museum, Luoyang

These Qin coins are from the Luoyang Museum, Luoyang. Note the hole in the middle so that they may be strung together to either make up a specific amount or to hang from the waist for safety. However, when the Emperor took over he had to change all the money system over to a common set. He removed some coins and added others but all were Qin

Coins from the conquered states of Wei and Yan together with coins of the Qin state, Shaanxi Museum, Xian

On the left are examples of the coins made out of bronze which can be seen in the Shaanxi Museum, Xian.
On the top row are spade shaped coins from the state of Wei.
Next row are the knife shaped coins of Yan state.
At the bottom are the standardised coins issued by the Emperor for the whole of the Qin Empire.


This coin, called the banliang, was first minted in the Qin period but remained the standard coin for the whole of the Imperial period and was not abandoned until after 1911.

It is made of bronze, weighs half an ounce, is circular with a square hole in it.

A banlian, the most common coin of the Qin and still in use in 1911 at the end of the imperial period
A coin mold from Shaanxi Museum, Xian Below is a coin mould used to caste circular coins in Bronze, also from the Shaanxi Museum, Xian