12/03/2012 03:53 pm ET Updated Dec 11, 2012

Qin Dynasty Palace Ruins Discovered In China

Chinese archeologists have discovered the ancient ruins of a massive palace complex at the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the central city of Xi’an.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, the findings at the second-century BC mausoleum suggest the structure was about 690 meters long and 250 meters wide and included a main building overlooking 18 straggling courtyard-structured houses.

Covering about 170,000 square meters, the structure is said to be about a quarter of the size of Beijing’s Forbidden City and the largest complex ever found at the 56-square-km mausoleum, the Guardian reported.

Sun Weigang, a researcher with the Shaanxi provincial institute of archaeology, says the palace, which he describes as a clear predecessor to the Forbidden City, could shed light on the imperial architectural techniques of the Qin dynasty, according to Russia Today.

China Daily adds:

The historical record showed that Emperor Qin Shihuang planned the construction of his cemetery soon after he was enthroned, and the large cemetery and mausoleum showed that he wanted to continue his imperial life after his death.

The emperor, who was born Ying Zheng, came to the throne of the Qin at age 13 and took over the affairs of the state at age 22. By 211 BC, he annexed six rival principalities and established the first feudal empire in Chinese history.

The underground mausoleum --believed to be the largest in the world—first grabbed international attention after the discovery of terracotta warriors in 1974. A hundred new warriors were unearthed earlier this year, along with a dozen pottery horses, weapons and tools.