Nine held over tomb robbery in Xi'an

By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-27 07:52
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Raiders carve a 30-meter tunnel to mausoleum of emperor's family

XI'AN - Police have detained nine people who allegedly plundered a mausoleum where the ancestors of Emperor Qinshihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) were buried in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, local authorities said on Thursday.

The police did not reveal the names of those detained and said that further investigations were under way.

The mausoleum is where Qinshihuang's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were buried.

Qinshihuang was the first emperor of a united China. His mausoleum, covering an area of 56 square kilometers in Lishan Mountain, Xi'an, is the world's largest underground mausoleum and is famous for its Terracotta Warriors.

The mausoleum visited by the robbers is Qindong Mausoleum, or East Qin Mausoleum, located to the east of Qinshihuang Mausoleum. It covers an area of 27 square kilometers.

Archaeological excavations in the 1980s found that there were five high-class imperial tombs in Qindong Mausoleum and unearthed many bronze, iron and pottery items as well as ancient building materials in and around the area. The site has a national cultural heritage status.

On Oct 8, employees of the Lintong district cultural heritage bureau found traces of tomb raiders during a routine patrol, Gao Haifeng, a local cultural heritage official, told China Daily on Friday.

"Our staff found new digging traces with saw blades and other evidence in the tomb when making a routine inspection," he said.

On Oct 20, new suspicious signs were found, including an interphone near the tomb. The bureau employees called the police.

Police found a 30 meter-deep tunnel leading into a tomb of the mausoleum. Some of the robbers' tools were left in the tunnel. Damaged coffins were found scattered in the tomb.

"The tomb was seriously damaged by the robbers," said Pang Bo, an official with Shaanxi provincial administration of cultural heritage.

An investigation group for the case was set up on Oct 25. Specialists from the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage have joined the police in investigating the thefts.

Police announced on Thursday that they had caught nine suspects.

Experts suspected other tombs in the mausoleum were also robbed, but this needed to be proven with excavations.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/27/2010 page4)