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Wednesday
Oct262011

Insider guide to China’s pyramids

Forget Giza’s famous pyramids for a second. The Nile-side Egyptian city is just one platform for the slanting structures. Pyramids also occur in China. Yes, you read that right. The nation better known for a winding wall than any fancy trapezoids has more than a smattering of pyramids.

Eternal tombs

Just like Egypt’s, China’s pyramids are giant crypts, built to house the remains of early Chinese emperors and their royal relatives. Many of China’s pyramids punctuate a 25-kilometer area northwest of the capital of Shaanxi Province, Xi'an.

Shaanxi’s best-known area pyramid is the Tomb of the First Qin Emperor. UNESCO-listed, [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/441], the Qin tomb is bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Green giant

From afar, the giant imperial pyramid resembles an ordinary tree-clad hill. But its interior is studded with terracotta soldiers forming a cohort acclaimed as the 'eighth wonder of the world'. The tomb also boasts an inner imperial burial chamber said to feature crossbow-firing booby traps and 100 rivers made with mercury.

Missing the point

The Qin Mausoleum is a showstopper, but besides, the Xi'an area hosts dozens more pyramids erected during other dynasties. The pyramids differ from Egyptian ones dramatically – like rockabilly musicians, they have flat tops. From that angle, they more closely resemble Mexico’s Teotihuacan pyramids.

Glimmerings

The first hint that China might host its own pyramids came during the Second World War. The source: American airman James Gaussman. During a flight between India and China, Gaussman saw a shimmering, jewel-topped pyramid straight out of a fairytale, he said. His bizarre 'great white pyramid' claim must have made his superiors wonder if he had seen a mirage or been smitten by vertigo.

NYT ID

But then in the March 28, 1947 New York Times edition, the Far Eastern director of Trans World Airlines, Colonel Maurice Sheahan, recounted seeing a Shaanxi  pyramid. Two days later, a photo of the marvel, later attributed to Gaussman, surfaced in the newspaper’s Sunday edition.

Pyramania

Chinese pyramids’ credibility grew. Quite why, as sources claim [www.world-mysteries.com/mpl_pyramidsofchina.htm], Beijing set out to hush up and hide the pyramids by planting trees on them is part of their mystery. Perhaps the government was worried about tomb raiders.

Lost world

Either way, even now, obscurity surrounds the firmly mapped earthen oddities. Mention China’s pyramids to your friends and they may think you mad. China’s pyramids hover on the fringes of geography like apparitions from the X-Files or the Twilight Zone.

See the pyramids 

The pyramids are in the same general area as the famous Terracotta Warriors, in Shaanxi Province on the Qin Chuan Plains – around 35 kilometers outside the ancient city of Xi'an.

More info: en1.xian-tourism.com

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