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The mystery of the White Pyramid of China

The story of the White Pyramid of China began in 1940 when eyewitness reports, particularly by American pilot James Gaussman, mentioned the presence of a huge "white pyramid" near the Chinese city of Xi'an.

According to these accounts, if true, this structure was larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza. For many decades, the region was off-limits to western tourists, and once these restrictions were lifted, many pyramids were discovered in the area, but the giant "white pyramid" was not among them.

An aerial photograph near Xi'an, initially thought to show the White Pyramid, turned out to be of a much smaller hill. So, what is the answer? Did someone overestimate the size of a small pyramid? The answer is no. That photograph has nothing to do with the original description of the White Pyramid.

The White Pyramid was spotted in the 1940s by American aviators and has never before been found on t
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The White Pyramid was spotted in the 1940s by American aviators and has never before been found on the ground.

Could the white pyramid be Mount Liangshan? Mount Liangshan is located near Qiang Xian, a small Chinese town 80 km northwest of Xi'an. In 684 CE, the second Tang Dynasty emperor Gaozong was buried at the foot of the mountain with his wife, Empress Wu, who reigned after Gaozong's death. When she died in 705 CE, her body was buried near her husband on Mount Liangshan. It is the only mausoleum where two Tang monarchs were buried together.

The Qianling Mausoleum includes 17 attendant tombs, such as those of Princess Yongtai, Prince Zhanghuai, and Prince Yide. Twenty stone sculptures guard the emperor and his wife from evil spirits and enemies. They outline the road to the burial site, guarded by an unusual procession of long swords. Behind the statues, there is a reconstruction of a gate, built in terracotta but finished with bricks. There are also two large statues of mythical monsters. Building the mausoleum and the interior of the chambers was a great undertaking.

Liangshan is regarded as a natural mountain, consisting of three peaks. The two southern peaks are about the same size, but the northern peak is much taller and more massive. The southern peaks are made of soil (the so-called "Central China clay soil," composed of 30% clay, 35% clay conglomerates, and almost 40% limestone). However, the northern peak, which is the tallest, is covered with enormous rectilinear stone slabs placed directly on the ground. One of the main accounts of the "white pyramid" – although it had not yet received this name – in the vicinity of Xi'an was given by Alfred Schroeder in 1912:

"The pyramid is about 1000 feet high (other descriptions estimate 1000 to 1200 feet high, roughly 330 to 400 meters) and about 1500 feet at the base, making it twice as large as any pyramid in Egypt. The four faces of the structure are oriented with the cardinal points."

This observation aligns with Mount Liangshan: it is a colossal pyramid with four visible sides supporting the tomb of Emperor Gaozong.

It is difficult to determine the pyramid's height. If measured from the platform with the statues of the twenty guardians, the height is 160 meters; if measured from the pyramid's base, the height is about 300 meters, or about 1000 feet! Schroeder further wrote:

"Each side of the pyramid was a different color: the north was black, the east was blue, the south red, and the west had a shade of white. The flat top of the pyramid was covered with yellow soil (clay)."

Why does Schroeder describe each side of the pyramid as having a different color? The answer lies in the pyramid's surface condition. The north side is the most damaged by human activities, featuring many modern terraces and farmers' cultivations, appearing as a long slope of a natural hill. Since this part is not illuminated by the sun, the terraces are dark gray, aligning with Schroeder's description of black. The eastern slope is planted with coniferous trees that have a blue and green hue. The southern side was damaged by locals, revealing the yellowish color of the clay, which Schroeder thought was red. The west side is white because it is covered with massive stone blocks, gray and white in color. This side, combined with the light yellow of the upper part, created the legend of the "White Pyramid."

Long ago, the pyramid was entirely covered by enormous slabs of white stone, although the central structure is composed of pressed clay, similar to other pyramids in Shaanxi province. Natural forces such as earthquakes and rain caused these slabs to slide to the pyramid's foot. Only on the western side do the plates remain relatively intact.

Here, Schroeder's observations from a century ago are confirmed:

"The pyramid was built from pressed clay like many other constructions in China. Huge channels extend along the walls of the pyramid with the size of real canyons. They were in turn filled with stones. There are trees and bushes on the slopes that erase the shape of the pyramid and make it look like a natural hill. I was fascinated by this extraordinary view... Once upon a time, there were steps from the base to the top of the pyramid, but they are now filled with fragments and debris. Some steps cut into the living rock have been observed at the bottom (each stone measuring three feet square)."

In support of Schroeder's description, many massive stone slabs were found on the pyramid's western side. These slabs have smooth surfaces and straight edges, covering the entire western side but are damaged in certain places. It appears that stone slabs were used to protect the pyramid from the elements and make the structure sturdier. It seems clear that they are of artificial origin. The west side of the terrace also reveals large stone blocks in poor condition. Regular blocks may become half-buried in the clay. These must also be of anthropogenic origin since it is impossible for a regularly shaped stone to form on clay soil. I have found many other features on artificial terraces, equally constructed of massive blocks of stone; one weighed at least 10 tons. The top of the block is damaged, but the other sides show sharp, clear edges and flat surfaces.

No official research has been carried out on the site, but it is supposed to be a mountain later transformed into a pyramid. If the pyramid was built from the foundations up, it required millions of tons of clay and thousands of construction workers, making it an extraordinary achievement and certainly worthy of the legendary fame the White Pyramid received in the 20th Century. Either way, it is one of the largest pyramids in the world. Comparing Schroeder and Gaussman's descriptions of the White Pyramid with Mount Liangshan, it seems that they are the same structure.

Seven elements confirm this identification:

  • The structures have the same height of 300 meters;
  • The length of each side was calculated as 500 meters;
  • The description of the color of the sides of the pyramid coincides;
  • The name "White Pyramid" originates from the color of the stone slabs that covered the construction;
  • The pyramids are made of pressed clay and covered with stone slabs;
  • The sides of the pyramid have depressions resembling natural channels;
  • There are steps and terraces along the pyramid.

What do you think ?

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