The Xianyang Museum, which was originally a Confucian temple, was reconstructed and open to the public in 1962.
Xianyang City is 28 kilometers away from Xi'an. It was the capital of the famous Qin Dynasty in Chinese history. The first Qin Emperor gained power in Xianyang and established the first centralized feudal multinational state. After the unification of the six kingdoms, the whole populace was ordered to build imperial chariot roads. These wide roads were used for horses and chariots. There were three major roads which radiated from Xianyang. One went eastward to Hebei, Liaoning and Shandong. Another went south to Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Anhui, and the third to Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The roads played an important role in the flow of products, the movement of the army and the consolidation of the national unification. In order to strengthen the power of the central government, the First Qin Emperor gave orders to set up palaces with distinctive features on the slopes north of Xianyang. Here all members of the imperial families from the former six kingdoms were put under house arrest. At the same time, he moved almost 20000 noble and rich families from the six kingdoms to Xianyang, which was already a prosperous metropolis with about 1000000 people at that time.
Xianyang was a vital link of communication to the northwest part of China during the Han Dynasty. It was also the imperial cemetery during the Western Han period. Of the eleven emperors of this period, nine were buried here. Near the imperial mausoleums, there are also tombs of many imperial kinsmen and civil and military officials. Therefore, Xianyang is know its cultural and historical artifacts from the Qin and the Han dynasties. Xianyang Museum focuses on the historical artifacts of these two dynasties. Its construction area is 3800 square meters and the exhibition area is 1216 square meters. It houses 15000 or more cultural artifacts, out of which 4000 are now on display. The museum consists of seven exhibition halls.
The First Exhibition Hall
The exhibits in this hall concentrate on the production tools, weapons, weights and measures, and articles of daily use from the Qin Dynasty.
Iron ploughs, iron hoes and other iron tools were widely used in the Qin kingdom between the spring and autumn period and the Warring States period. There is a suggestion that the metallurgical industry developed rapidly at that time. The extensive use of iron tools marked a new phase in the progress of productive forces.
The bronze daggers, axes, spears, swords, and other weapons exhibited here give clear evidence to the Qin's unified military power to counter attack against the harassment and intrusion by the Hun Tribe, a minority ethnic group in ancient China.
One bronze plate carries the 40 characters of an imperial edict issued by the First Qin Emperor to standardize the system of weights and measures on a national scale. The bronze plate was used due to the non-existence of paper then. This special bronze plate was the first of its kind ever found in the process of archeological excavation.
Anyi Xiaguan Bell was unearthed in Ta'erpo in Xianyang in April, 1966. It was a capture when the Qin defeated the Wei. Therefore, it is of great historical value. Anyi was the capital of the Wei kingdom, one of the seven powerful statues of the Warring States period. The bell, which was a measurement of volume in old China, bears on its rim the five characters thirteen dou and one sheng a Chinese measurement word for decalcifies of grain and its neck bears two characters zhici which means up to this point, against the national system of standard weights and measures after it was passed on to the Qin. The bell provides a valuable reference material for the study of the system of weights and measures of the Warring States period and the Qin Dynasty.
These pottery jars, basins, round and oval pots were daily necessities. The pottery of the Qin Dynasty is characterized by toughness, durability and little ornamentation.
The second Exhibition Hall
This hall mainly contains the cultural artifacts unearthed from the site of No. 1 Palace of the Qin capital, Xianyang. The site lies in the northern part of Yaoxian in Xianyang. The western part of the site was excavated between 1974 and 1975. There is a model of the restoration of the palace on display. The results of the excavation reveal that it was a high-rise palace. The architecture symbolizes the supremacy of imperial power in the feudal society. With three floors, the palace consisted of halls, corridors, living and bath rooms, lobbies, warehouses and cellars. Fireplaces were also built inside the palace. The drainage facilities included pottery funnels, round ceramic pipes and elbow joints, which made up an extensive system around the place.
In ancient China, it was long known to people how to keep and store food at a low temperature. Early in the Zhou Dynasty, the lingyin cellar was built to store ice. The archaeological excavation in Xianyang found that there were seven cellars for refrigeration in No. 1 Palace. At the bottom of each cellar, there was a huge oval pottery basin to hold water and to prevent the icicles from being polluted. The cellar wall was made up of earthen pipes, one meter in diameter. The pipes were pressed downward while the earth was dug out from under them. it was known as the open caisson approach. These cellars were thirteen meters deep and had a wooden lid to keep the temperature low for a long time. Food would remain fresh much longer. This type of palace with cellars for refrigeration was found for the first time in China. The earthen pipes are now on display in the museum.
A variety of construction materials, such as bricks, roof and eave tiles, were unearthed at the ruins of the palace. They are hard, solid, and decorated with patterns of dragon, phoenix, clouds and thunder, were used for pavement, which were imprinted with various pattern: veins-plain, checks, rhombus, saw-teeth, sun and flower. These paving bricks are new archaeological finds.
Most of the unearthed cultural artifacts are board tiles, roll tiles, and eave tiles with a variety of designs, but the eave tiles with cloud veins and deformed cloud veins make up the largest number, over 90% of the tatal.
The Third Exhibition Hall
This hall mainly contains the cultural artifacts unearthed from the site of No. 3 Palace in Xianyang, the Qin capital. No. 3 Palace is situated to the southwest of No. 1 Palace, and they are about 100 meters apart. It covers an area of 7020 square meters. These fragmentary mural paintings were unearthed from the site of No. 3 Palace. The fragments are composed of straight lines, curve lines and geometric veins of red, yellow, blue, black and other mineral pigments. They are the earliest frescoes ever found in the process of archaeological excavation in China. They reflected the travel activities and etiquette of the Qin Dynasty. the fragments have some obvious stain of smoke, and give evidence to the fact that Xiang Yu burnt the Qin Palace to ashes for three months
Printed pottery wares are also on display in this hall. They are engraved with names of people, and place names such as Xian Li and Xian Ting. We may conclude from this that there were then workshops and workers specialized in producing these items. This group of pottery wares was most probably made for the imperial court and sent there from different parts of the country. The makes would be easily found and severely punished if the pottery was considered of low quality or off-standard. Engraving names on pottery probably started in the Qin Dynasty. These engravings provide us with valuable information for the study of calligraphy, the evolution of Chinese characters and the management of the handicraft industry in the Qin Dynasty.
The Fourth Exhibition Hall
The exhibits in the Fourth Exhibition Hall involve the cultural artifacts from the Western Han Dynasty. the iron farm implements and the grains in the pottery granary show the wide employment of iron tools and the popularization of plowing by cows in the Han Dynasty, which rapidly revived and enhanced the development of agriculture in the country
In the early days of the Han, horse-raising was greatly encouraged by the government in order to develop agricultural production to meet the military needs. It also served to enhance the development of animal husbandry. At the same time, severe penalty was imposed on those who stole or killed cows and horses. Pottery cows, horses, pigs and sheep on display here were all excavated in Langjiagou in Xianyang. They serve as evidence of the development of animal husbandry in the Han Dynasty.
These colored and glazed pottery vessels were made entirely by the potter's wheel. Much of the yellow glaze was applied to them. Therefore, they are lustrous, smooth and delicate. Glazed pottery was very popular during this period. The ornamental designs on the eave tiles of the Han Dynasty are different from those of the Qin. The earlier period of the Han was the prevalence of such words of luck and peace as Changle, Weiyang (names of the two imperial palaces). Such words would constitute the designs on the tiles. In the later period of the Han, the images of the four gods: the Blue Dragon, the White Tiger, the Scarlet Bird and the Tortoise began to appear on the tiles
The Fifth and Sixth Exhibition Halls.
In these two halls, the main exhibits are the painted pottery warriors unearthed from a Han tomb in Yangjiawan Village.
The tomb is one of the satellite tombs of the Changling Mausoleum, where Emperor Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Western Han Dynasty, was buried. About 70 meters south of the tomb, a large number of painted pottery figures were discovered in 1965. The archaeologists sorted out 3000 pottery warriors from ten pits in the tomb. They were known as an army of three thousand warriors. There are four pits with standing figures and six pits with pottery cavalrymen. The standing figures were divided into music players, dancers, and warriors. Among the music players and dancers, some carried flags, some played musical instruments, and others danced with quick and light steps in various colorful costumes. All the warriors figures held long spears and shields in hand, carried two types: large and small. It seemed to be at the point of prevalence of the small armor over the large one. The small armor was more compact and flexible. This resulted from the development of hard armor and sharp weapons in the early Han Dynasty.
The discovery of cavalryman figures in six pits out of the ten indicates that cavalrymen had an important place in the composition of the army and they were a major branch of the services then. The life-like war horses fall into two categories: large and small. They have different colors: red, black, purple, and yellow, some standstill, and others neigh with heads high up in the air. The cavalrymen have broad chests and large build. They look very forceful and vivid. Different signs are cut onto the horse's buttocks and the backs of the cavalryman figures.
From the layout of these Han pottery warriors and horses, we can see that the then military formation was quite different from that of the Qin Dynasty. in the battle formation of the Qin Dynasty, infantrymen served as vanguards, with war chariots as an attacking force. In the battle formation of the Han Dynasty, infantrymen also served as vanguards, but with cavalrymen as an attacking force. War chariots were only used by commanders.
Judging from the unearthed artifacts and date of the tomb, it is estimated that the tomb occupant is, most probably, either Zhou Bo or Zhou Yafu. Both of them, father and son, once served as supreme military commanders during the Western Han Dynasty. These pottery warriors are of great value to the study of the Western Han Dynasty in the areas of military formation, artistic carving, dressing style and personal adornment.
The Seventh Exhibition Hall
Here on display in this hall are the cultural artifacts unearthed from the tombs of Western Han emperors. Nine out of the eleven Western Han emperors were buried in the area of Xianyang Tableland. There are 500 tombs altogether, including the imperial mausoleums and their satellites tombs. This complex of tombs extends for about 100 miles. Although they have not been excavated, cultural artifacts are occasionally discovered.