Archaeologists have uncovered the palace of Qin Shi Huang, China's first feudal emperor, famous for the terracotta warrior army guarding his tomb, China's state media reported on Sunday.
The palace complex of Qin Shihuang was discovered in the outskirts of Xi'an, the capital of the country's Shaanxi province and the home of life-size terracotta soldiers, an associate researcher at the Shaanxi provincial institute of archaeology told China's official news wire Xinhua.
Emperor Qin Shihuang was the First Emperor of a unified China. He was born in 259 B.C. as an heir to the throne of Qin, one of the six kingdoms found in what is now China. He took over the thrown at the age of 13 in 246 B.C. and ruled until his death in 210 B.C. During his time as emperor, he had conquered and unified the warring Chinese states into one kingdom.
Not only was Qin Shihuang responsible for uniting China's six states, he also established a united currency and writing system. The emperor ruled with an iron fist and was known to bury his opponents alive and castrate prisoners of war.
Archaeologists said that the palace, which is about 2,264 feet (690 meters) long and 820 feet (250 meters) wide, is the largest complex ever discovered in the first emperor's vast 22 square-mile (56 square kilometer) second-century BC mausoleum.
The palace complex, about a quarter of the size of Beijing's Forbidden City, consists of 18 courtyard-style houses and one main building in the center, researcher Sun Weigang said, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Sun said that the palace was a clear predecessor to the Forbidden City, built in the 1400s and later occupied by emperors during the later Ming and Qing dynasties, as both were built on north-south axes in keeping with traditional Chinese cosmology.
Archaeologists told Xinhua news agency that despite more than 2,000 years of exposure, the foundations were well preserved. Researchers found walls, gates, stone roads, pottery and some bricks among the remains of the ancient palace.
While archaeologists have been excavating the foundations since 2010, the main burial chamber of China's First Emperor has yet to be explored. Researchers worry that without the sufficient tools, excavating the main chamber would do more harm than good. And damage the precious artifacts inside.
According to reports written by the Han dynasty scholar Sima Qian centuries after the emperor's death, Qin Shi Huang's tomb is 394 feet (120 meters) high, encased by vermillion stonewalls and surrounded by rivers of mercury and protected by booby traps. The tomb's ceiling is also believed to be covered with precious jewels.