Tomb tales

Arche­ol­o­gists un­earth mag­nif­i­cent palace at em­peror's mau­soleum, sup­ply­ing clues to Tang Dy­nasty liv­ing

Global Times - - Front Page - By Huang Tingt­ing

Apalace and 27 sculp­tures at the mau­soleum of Tang Em­peror Daizong (726-779 AD) are among the lat­est, most im­por­tant arche­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies un­earthed last year at the Yuan Ling tombs in Shaanxi Prov­ince's Tan Shan moun­tain range, the pro­vin­cial arche­ol­ogy in­sti­tute said on Fri­day.

The North­west China prov­ince's moun­tain­ous area is home to 18 mau­soleums for 19 Tang Dy­nasty (618-907) em­per­ors: The leg­endary Em­press Wu Ze­tian (690-705) was even­tu­ally buried along­side her hus­band Em­peror Gao­zong (649-683). Arche­ol­o­gists have dug up at least eight Tang tombs so far in­clud­ing Qian, Shun, Jian, Zhen, Chong, Qiao and Tai, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports.

The Old Book of Tang de­scribes Daizong as “a ca­pa­ble ruler that sur­passed the an­cient wise kings” and grand­son of the fa­mously un­wise Em­peror Xuan­zong (713-756), best known for his ro­mance with the dis­tract­ingly beau­ti­ful Yang Guifei.

Palace fire

The arche­ol­o­gists have un­cov­ered the charred rem­nants of a 30-me­ter long, 25-me­ter wide palace 3.5 kilo­me­ters from the south­ern gate of the em­peror's tomb.

“The Xi­agong Palace is a res­i­den­tial palace for the tomb keep­ers, nor­mally court ser­vants and it makes up a very im­por­tant part of the Tang Dy­nasty im­pe­rial mau­soleum,” Tian Youqian, head of the in­sti­tute ex­ca­va­tion project, told the Global Times on Sun­day.

The palace was once sup­ported by at least three lines of pil­lars run­ning north to south and eight lines go­ing east-west, ac­cord­ing to a dig­i­tal model con­structed by the ex­perts.

A drainage sys­tem and stair­cases were also found in the north and south. Burnt bricks and scorched earth sug­gest the palace once had a fire.

Xi­agong pro­vides im­por­tant clues for his­to­ri­ans, Tian said, as it was most likely built in ac­cor­dance with palaces of China's then-im­pe­rial cap­i­tal Chang'an, to­day's Xi'an.

Pas­sage guards

Twenty-seven stone guardians line the shen­dao, or god's pas­sage. Such sculp­tures are com­mon out­side tombs of em­per­ors and no­bil­ity, their num­ber and size strictly stip­u­lated ac­cord­ing to im­pe­rial rank­ings.

Fif­teen of the 27 sculp­tures at Yuan Ling are of­fi­cial guards, some with long swords, and the rest are a stan­dard mix of an­i­mals and myth­i­cal an­i­mals in­clud­ing a horse, lion and tiger.

“In terms of shape, num­ber and lay­out, the stone sculp­tures are sim­i­lar to those found at the other Tang mau­soleums,” Tian said, “but as they were made dur­ing the mid-Tang (762-827), their size is smaller than those made dur­ing the dy­nasty's prime.”

Pho­tos: Cour­tesy of Tian Youqian

A stone horse south of the shen­dao pas­sage at the Yuan Ling mau­soleum in Shaanxi Prov­ince. Clock­wise from top: A frag­ment of a horse found on the east side of the pas­sage; Xi­agong Palace; a guard on the west of the pas­sage.

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