The Legendary 1,000-ft White Pyramid of Xian

In Search of the Legendary 1,000-ft White Pyramid of Xian


Scattered across an isolated, flat plain in Shaanxi Province, near the ancient capital of Xi’an, lie dozens of spectacular pyramid mounds that are little known outside China.  Mixed in with the reality of these impressive tombs, is a legend of an enormous 1,000-foot white, jewel-capped pyramid that would outshine even the Great Pyramid of Giza. While some researchers believe that aerial sightings of the ‘White Pyramid of Xi’an’ correspond with the Maoling pyramid, tomb of Emperor Wu of Han, others maintain that the legendary pyramid is yet to be found.

Pyramids (also called ‘trapezoidal burial mounds) near Xi’an, China

Pyramids (also called ‘trapezoidal burial mounds) near Xi’an, China. Credit: Hartwig Hausdorf

First Sighting – Fred Meyer Schroder, 1912

Reported sightings of an enormous white pyramid in China date back more than a century to the diary entries of American travel agent and trader Fred Meyer Schroder, who spotted a set of pyramids in the distance while walking with a Buddhist monk guide in Shaanxi Province in 1912.  He reported seeing one giant pyramid, along with smaller pyramids surrounding it. 

"It was even more uncanny than if we had found it in the wilderness," he wrote. "But those [pyramids] were to some extent exposed to the eyes of the world - but still totally unknown in the western world."

Schroder estimated that the main pyramid was at least 300 meters high (roughly 1,000 feet) with 500 meter side. Such dimensions would give the structure a volume ten times greater than that of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, which measures 140 meters (450 feet) in height. Schroder’s Mongolian guide, Bogdo, informed him that the pyramids are at least 3,000 years old and that information about them is recorded in ancient monastic documents and is well-known in local legend. 

Second Sighting – James Gaussman, 1945

The second and most famous sighting of the White Pyramid of Xi’an came from United States Army Air Corps pilot named James Gaussman, who was flying from China to Assam in India in the Spring of 1945, when he reportedly saw a huge white jewel-capped pyramid to the southwest of Xi’an. He later wrote:

I flew around a mountain and then we came to a valley. Directly below us was a gigantic white pyramid. It looked as if it were from a fairy tale. The pyramid was draped in shimmering white. 
It could have been metal, or some other form of stone. It was white on all sides. What was most curious about it was its capstone: a large piece of precious gem-like material. I was deeply moved by the colossal size of the thing.

Third Sighting – Colonel Maurice Sheahan, 1947

Just two years after Gaussman’s supposed sighting of a white, jewel-capped pyramid, Colonel Maurice Sheahan, Far Eastern director of Trans World Airlines, was flying over a  valley near the Qin Ling Mountains, approximately 40 miles southwest of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, when he saw a giant pyramid in the landscape below. Sheahan’s encounter was reported in the March 28 edition of the New York Times, under the headline ‘ U.S. Flier Reports Huge Chinese Pyramid In Isolated Mountains Southwest of Sian [Xi'an] .’

Qin Ling Mountains, China

Qin Ling Mountains, China ( Wikimedia Commons )

In the article, Sheehan is reported as having said that the pyramid was around 1,000-ft high and 1,500-ft wide and seemed to "dwarf those of Egypt". Two days after the report, the New York Times published a photo of the supposed pyramid, which was later attributed to Gaussman. Meanwhile, Chinese archaeologists were denying that any such pyramid existed.

Photograph published in New York Times, May 30 1947, supposedly taken by James Gaussman

Photograph published in New York Times, May 30 1947, supposedly taken by James Gaussman

The photograph was somewhat disappointing – it was not pure white, nor was it jewel-capped, and it did not appear to be 1,000-ft high, making some question whether the photo was merely a filler added by the newspaper and not taken by Gaussman at all.

The photograph was later identified as the well-known Maoling burial mound (see google maps location ), the tomb of Emperor Wu of Han (156–87 BCE), located in Xingping, Shaanxi Province, China, about 25 miles to the northwest of the provincial capital of Xi'an.

Maoling is the tomb of Emperor Wu of Han

Maoling is the tomb of Emperor Wu of Han ( Wikimedia Commons )

The Maoling Mausoleum

Maoling is the largest of the western-Han Dynasty pyramids (or trapezoidal burial mounds) constructed as imperial mausoleums over 2,000 years ago, but is still significantly smaller than the reported size of the ‘White Pyramid of Xi’an’. The tumulus is built with rammed earth and clay with a rectangular base of approximately 220 x 220 meters (720 x 720 feet) and a height of 50 meters (155 feet).

Construction of the tomb started in the second year of Emperor Wu’s reign (139 BC) and was completed upon his death some 53 years later. The tomb was filled precious grave goods, many of which are now on display at a nearby museum. Surround Maoling are a series of smaller tombs that belong to Emperor Wu’s favorite concubine, Lady Li; the military strategist, Hao Qubing; and other members of the royal court.

Maoling, the tomb of Emperor Wu of Han

Maoling, the tomb of Emperor Wu of Han ( Wikimedia Commons )

Does the White Pyramid really exist?

Many researchers who have explored both the legend and the sightings of the White Pyramid of Xi’an do not believe that corresponds to Maoling, citing the fact that the sightings placed the White Pyramid near the Qin Ling Mountains, while Maoling lies in an isolated, flat plain.  Furthermore, Maoling lies to the northwest of Xi’an, while Gaussman and Sheahan placed the pyramid to the southwest.

The descriptions also do not match up, including the fact that Sheahan described the White Pyramid as having a “perfect pyramidal form”, which contrasts to the flat-topped appearance of Maoling. 

Is it possible that the New York Times simply used a photo of Maoling as a stock photo to represent a pyramid in China, leaving open the possibility that a real White Pyramid is still out there waiting to be discovered? Or were Schroder, Gaussman, and Sheahan all mistaken in their descriptions and size estimations, and their sightings really were of Maoling?

Some believe that the White Pyramid may lie within the rugged terrain of the Qin Ling Mountains, difficult to spot among the towering mountains and deep gorges. Numerous researchers and explorers have pursued the White Pyramid of Xi’an, but none to date have been successful.

Featured image: Mausoleum of Han Yang Ling near Xi’an, model of pyramid in der Han Yang Ling Museum ( Wikimedia Commons ). Inset image: Google maps aerial view of the Maoling.


The Great White Pyramid of China – Historic Mysteries. Available from:

China’s Lost Pyramids – Unexplained Earth. Available from:’an.php

The White Pyramid of Xi’an – Bibliotocapleyades. Available from:

Pyramids in China – World Mysteries. Available from:

In Search of the White Pyramid – China Expat. Available from:

By April Holloway


AintGottaClue's picture

Anyone tried using Google Earth to locate the pyramid?

History is nowhere near as well known as we think it is.

Chinese government had found hundreds of artifacts inside them. However, they also realized they are not belonging to their culture rather than to ancient Koreans'. (we could know because of the shapes of Liaoning bronze dagger, big pots and topknot of the body, etc.) They stopped the discovering and covered them in secret, probably only the government have continued the discovery and research.
As a part of their historic policy which manipulates Ancient Koreans' history, they will open them when they will have finished the manipulation.

What I know,on April 1963, 36 Chinese historians were sent to the pyramid to check inside by Chinese goverment. At that time, China goverment thought that the pyramid was related to ancient Chinese king.But, what I know,the result was very surprised thing. The pyramids does not belong to ancient Chinese, belongs to ancient Korean ancestor. That is why they were stopped to check by Chinse goverment. That is the main reason China goverment does not open the pyramids to the world.

They aree proto turk grave. Proto turk belive tengri and made big grave. In middl asia there are many of them. but small because hun emperor is bigger than gokturk emperor s

yes, time and space are relative constructs... you are free to use them to express yourself. you can move mountains so nothing is more stable when change is the true constant. we are not the first to know this and so there may be many other reasons why people build pyramids. did you mean that you have built pyramids because you found them most stable? ...go ahead and speak for yourself!


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