A new method of X-ray stress measurement was proposed to estimate non-destructively the steep residual stress distribution in the surface layer of ground Si3N4. We assumed an exponential decrement of the residual stress near the ground surface, and derived a formula for the lattice strain as a function of sin2Ψ. In the experiments, the diffraction angles were measured on the ground surface for a widest possible range of sin2ѱ using an Ω-goniometer. In order to measure the diffraction angle at very high sin η values, a scintillation counter was located on the -η side and an incident X-ray beam impinged on the ground surface with a very low angle from the +η side using the glancing incidence X-ray diffraction technique. A strong non-linearity was found in the 20-sin2ѱ diagrams especially at very high ѱ -angles. From the analysis of non-linearity, the stress distribution in the surface layer was determined. Tine residual stress took the maximum compression of 2 GPa at a depth of about 0.5 μm from the surface, and then diminished to zero at about 25 μm in depth. In the close vicinity of the ground surface, the compressive residual stress was relieved because of both the surface roughness and microcracking induced during the grinding process.