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