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Tomb Entrance from Han Dynasty China - History
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, and across the country, people are busy putting the final touches on their holiday preparations: stuffing dumplings, writing poetic verses on pieces of red paper and hanging them around doors, and slipping money into red envelopes to give to friends and family. The Year of the Rooster is drawing to a close, and the country is gearing up to welcome the Year of the Dog.
According to popular legend, the Jade Emperor — China’s mythical ruler of the gods — needed a dozen different animals to guard the entrance to heaven. Other stories claim that he had no way of measuring time and recruited wild beasts to help him draw up the lunar calendar. Either way, when the animals came to sign up, the emperor created the zodiac according to the order in which they arrived. The dog was the penultimate animal to trot up, just before the pig.
The animals of the zodiac are closely intertwined with the daily lives of Chinese people — or, in the case of the dragon, their cultural symbols. For instance, dogs have been domesticated in China for thousands of years. Archeological evidence suggests that early ancestors of modern Chinese kept dogs during the Neolithic period, more than 7,000 years ago. In a region that suffered from frequent food shortages and natural disasters, dogs were bred for three reasons: protection, hunting, and food.
The image below depicts an earthenware model of a house excavated in 1992 from an Eastern Han tomb in Datong, a city in northern China’s Shanxi province. In front of the house sits a little clay guard dog, vigilantly holding its head upright and its ears perked as if sensing danger.
Details of an earthenware model of a house excavated in 1992 from an Eastern Han tomb in Datong, Shanxi province. From Datong Museum
Hunting dogs have a long history in China, too. The “Records of the Grand Historian,” a Han Dynasty historiography of ancient China, mentions hunting dogs on several occasions in its descriptions of life in the states of Wu and Yue, which occupied territory in what is now eastern China. In the country’s agricultural hinterlands, hunting with dogs declined steadily during the imperial period. By the Ming and Qing dynasties, hunting was mainly a leisure activity enjoyed by the nobility a breed known as the xigou — a lean, long-legged dog related to the saluki, or Persian greyhound — was used to hunt rabbits and other small prey.
In the late imperial period, too, more and more wealthy Chinese started keeping dogs as house pets. One particularly voguish breed during the Qing Dynasty was the Pekingese: small, shaggy-haired dogs indigenous to western China that became favored as lap dogs by members of the imperial court.
Most domesticated dogs doubled as rat-catchers. While there is scant evidence on the subject, it seems that the Chinese only domesticated cats sometime during the first millennium. (The ancient Egyptians, meanwhile, kept cats as long as 4,000 years ago.) Images of rodent-trapping dogs exist in rock paintings adorning the Han-era cliff tombs of Qijiang in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. In one picture, a large, bright-eyed dog proudly holds up a plump rat in its mouth.
Han Chinese in both northern and southern China traditionally ate dog meat. Meat was a rare commodity in feudal China, so farmers often slaughtered their dogs to supplement their diets of rice, millet, and vegetables. In “The Discourses of the States,” a text published during the 4th century B.C., it is written that King Goujian of Yue, hoping to boost birth rates and recruit more soldiers for his armies, ruled that families giving birth to male offspring would be rewarded with two urns of wine and a dog to be eaten by the boy’s mother to help her recover after giving birth.
A image of a rodent-trapping dog exists in rock paintings adorning the Han-era cliff tombs of Qijiang, Sichuan province. Courtesy of Dai Wangyun
Following the Sui and Tang dynasties of the first millennium, however, people living on the plains of northern China began to eschew eating dogs. This is likely due to the spread of Buddhism and Islam, two religions that forbade the consumption of certain animals, including dogs. As members of the upper classes shunned dog meat, it gradually became a social taboo to eat it, despite the fact that the general population continued to consume it for centuries afterward. Even today, some people in the country continue to cook with dog meat, such as the ethnic Koreans of China’s northeast and certain groups in southern China.
Today, in an era of comparative abundance, few Chinese people still eat dogs. More than ever, it is fashionable to keep dogs as pets: Take a walk through a city park on a sunny morning, and you will encounter dog-walkers petting, playing with, or — somewhat oddly — cradling poodles and pugs, occasionally clad in absurd costumes.
Many urban and middle-class Chinese are now questioning the ethics of killing certain animals that were once regarded as livestock but are now seen as pets. As attitudes change, more and more people are embracing animal rights, albeit in ways that value certain species over others. Every year, Chinese dog lovers vociferously protest events like the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, use so-called human flesh search engines to hunt down people who abuse dogs and cats, and call to ban the use of animals in circus performances.
Like dog owners in many countries, the Chinese have traditionally regarded dogs as loyal, friendly, and tenacious. Dogs are also considered humble creatures, a phenomenon that has influenced many social and linguistic traits. Prior to the vernacular language movements of the early 20th century, many Chinese used the word quan — a classical word for “dog” — to modestly refer to their family members. Even today, parents sometimes call their sons quanzi, or “the dog son,” when speaking about them to others. Others include the modern word for dog, gou, when giving their children nicknames, resulting in names like Goudan, or “dog egg,” and Ergou, meaning “second dog.” Traditional logic dictates that by giving children lowly names, they would eventually take on some of a dog’s hardiness.
A woman poses for a photo with dog-pattern pillows in Hong Kong, Feb. 11, 2018. IC
The internet age has given rise to a whole host of phrases containing the word gou. Sick of being single? You’re a danshen gou, or a “single dog.” Snowed under with homework assignments? You’re a xuesheng gou, or “student dog.” Working extra hours? Then you’re a jiaban gou, or “overtime dog.” As in English, you can be “dog-tired” (lei cheng gou) unlike English, you can also be “dog-poor” (qiong cheng gou) or “dog-hot” (re cheng gou).
Many of China’s young people work themselves to the bone for little reward. By self-deprecatingly likening their lives to those of dogs, they are identifying with a whole subculture that critiques the concepts of work and its associated social expectations: earning money, finding a partner, and settling down. Like their ancestors, young people are still using dogs to protect themselves these days, though, they degrade themselves to relieve the pressures of reality, likening themselves to dogs not because they despise them, but also because they relate to the canine compulsion to return to the master who whips them.
Translator: Owen Churchill editors: Zhang Bo and Matthew Walsh.
(Header image: A girl takes a picture of a clay dog at an exhibition in Haikou, Hainan province, Feb. 13, 2018. Luo Yunfei/CNS/VCG)
A Brief Instruction to the Ancient Tomb Museum
The Ancient Tomb Museum is composed of two parts, namely the ground and underground section. The ground section consists of white-marble made Entrance Door, Briefing Hall, Archive, Exhibition Room, Tetragonal Mansion and Wangjing Pavilion while the underground section houses the most precious collections of the museum, that lie within a large-scale underground tomb complex. There are a total of 22 typical ancient tombs of various dynasties, marked with a time span from the Western Han Dynasty to the Northern Song Dynasty. Among them, a group of mural tombs have the highest reputation.
The murals in the tombs of the Han Dynasty boast a long history. Today, 10 mural tombs are open to visitors, including the tomb containing the mural describing the story of exorcising demons (the Western Han Dynasty), the Tomb of Buqianqiu with a mural depicting the lifestyle of the noble families (the Western Han Dynasty) and the one telling the story of an eastward expedition (the Eastern Han Dynasty), etc.
The mural inside the Tomb of Buqianqiu describes the scenery of Buqianqiu and his wife ride a snake and three phoenixes and fly to the heaven, escorted by God of Purity who is appointed by the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens, fairies, dragons, flying goats (a kind of Chinese ancient beasts that have swings) and rose finches. The figures and beasts in the mural are colored brightly and well-painted with a profound cultural richness and artistic value.
The museums display many everyday utensils, embellishments and such funeral objects as the pottery figurines of the Western Han, Wei and Jin Dynasties as well as the trio-colored glazed potteries of the Tang Dynasty.
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Tomb Entrance from Han Dynasty China - History
In 202 BC, Liu Bang (256 BC-195 BC) defeated Xiang Yu (232 BC-202 BC) and set up the Western Han imperial court (206 BC-AD 24), founding its capital at Chang'an, with magnificent city walls and numerous palaces and halls constructed. Chang'an became the very center of the country, and the busiest city for international exchanges.
Carved stone image of Emperor Gao Zu (Liu Bang) of the Han Dynasty
According to burial system regulations in the Western Han Dynasty, construction of a huge tomb for the emperor should begin in the second year of his reign. Each year, one third of the royal revenue was allocated for construction of the tomb. The mausoleum built during the emperor's lifetime was known as "longevity tomb." It was said that the mausoleum occupied a land area of 7 qing (a unit of area equal to 6.667 hectares), of which the tomb mound covered 1 qing. The mound was 12 zhang (a unit of length equal to 3 1/3 meters) high and 13 zhang deep. The tomb chamber, 1.7 zhang high, was reached through four tomb passages, each of which was wide enough to allow a cart &'awn by six horses to move through. In addition, swords and crossbows were concealed behind the four inlets of the tomb chamber to guard against thieves and looters. With each side 100 paces (about 80 meters) long, the tomb pit contained six horse drawn carts, figures of tigers, leopards, and other animals gold, silver and other precious objects silk, cloth and grain and other daily necessities.
The dead emperor had a piece of chan jade in mouth, and was wrapped in "jade clothes sewn with gold thread."
Tombs of emperors in the Han Dynasty were marked by earth mounds packed into square shapes with level tops. Tombs from that time are called fangshang for their square shapes.
The mausoleum contained bed-chambers, sitting halls and temples for the offering of sacrifices to gods or ancestors, and other structures and residences housing several thousand persons, such as those in charge of the tomb, mausoleum officials, entrance guards, tomb guards, gardeners and cleaners. At that time the regulation stipulated that "sacrificial offerings would be placed separately in bed chambers, temples and sitting halls every month, every day and even every hour."
Since the early Western Han Dynasty there had taken place a large-scale removal of merited personnel and high officials, their kith and kin and families to Changling to protect Emperor Wu Di's tomb. Changling County was set up in the north of the mausoleum.
The practice of setting up counties around the locations of imperial tombs was handed down for several dynasties, so that new and prosperous cities and "tomb" counties emerged one after the other, including Changling County of Emperor Gao Zu (Liu Bang). Anling County of Emperor Hui Di (Liu Yin, 194 BC-188 BC, Yangling County of Emperor Jing Di (Liu Qi, 156 BC-141 BC), Pingling County of Emperor Zao Di (Liu Foling, 86 BC-74 BC) and Emperor Wu Di (Liu Che, 140 BC-87 BC).
Therefore, the present city of Xianyang where the five tombs above-mentioned were built was originally called Wulingyuan (the garden complex of five tombs).
Rich and powerful fathers, their sons and younger brothers popularized cockfighting and horseracing, and committed crimes in these tomb city areas. "Rich men wanted to get benefits from merchants whilst persons of exceptional ability wanted to have leisure time and commit adultery." So, later on, the term "five mausoleum youngsters" became a synonym for profligate sons of the rich.
Located in the area of Duima of Weibei Highland, nine kilometers northeast of Xingping County and 40 kilometers from Xi'an, Maoling, the mausoleum of Emperor Wu Di is most known as the largest of the five mausoleums. The book Illustrated Records of Scenic Spots in Central Shaanxi explained that "All Han mausoleums are 12 zhang high and 120 paces (approx 96 meters) wide. However, the Maoling is 14 zhang high and 140 paces (approx 112 meters) wide." A current actual measurement shows that Maoling is 46.5 meters high, 39.5 meters from east to west, 35.5 meters from north to south on the top and 240 meters long at the base of the tomb. These measurements tally basically with historical records. Emperor Wu Di's mausoleum is the most westerly of the five Western Han tombs.
The Maoling, mausoleum of Han Emperor Wu Di at Xingping, Shaanxi Province
Emperor Wu Di was the fifth ruling monarch of the Western Han Dynasty, going by the name Liu Che (156 BC-87 BC). Until he was nearly seventy years old, he had reigned for 50 years (140 BC-87 BC), being one of the longest-reigning emperors in China's history. During the reign of Emperor Wu Di, the Han Dynasty was at the height of its power and splendor. To consolidate power over the unified feudal states, he adopted a series of political, economic, and military measures. To strengthen and consolidate the autocratic centralized ruling system, he further weakened the practices of granting hereditary ranks, changed procedures for appointment of governors in provinces, and changed the imperial examination system. Iron smelting, salt boiling and minting industries were brought under state management, with laws and regulations promulgated to establish state control over transport and various trades as a method of accumulating income. Meanwhile, as a measure for increased farm production and lightening the burden on the people Daitian Provisions were also issued.
Emperor Wu Di also saw to it that his armed forces were further strengthened in defending the territory of the Han Dynasty and preventing it from encroachment by Xiongnu (Huns) from the north. To promote economic and cultural exchanges between the Chinese people and peoples of Central Asia, he opened the trade route from Gansu Corridor to Central Asian countries.
Zhang Qian (?-114 BC) was one most known among those going on mission to the Western Regions in the third year of Emperor Wu Di's reign (138 BC). He spent thirteen years on the mission, bringing with him minority nationalities' music and musical instruments, superior species of horse steeds, and more than a dozen species of trees, plants and crop strains, including lucerne, grape, walnut and broad bean pomegranate. These had improved the economy of the Han Dynasty. Under the rule of Emperor Wu Di, the Han Dynasty gained power, prosperity and stability, providing a period of development for the country in ancient history.
In the second year of the Jian Yuan reign (139 BC), that is the second year after Emperor Wu Di was enthroned, he began to build the mausoleum for himself, starting a 53-year project. When he died, trees planted on his tomb mound had trunks so thick a man could barely put his arms around one. This illustrates some of the detail ot preparing Emperor Wu Di's Maoling Mausoleum over half a century. The History of the Han Dynasty recorded that the coffin chamber of Maoling was packed with money and treasures and so many figurines of birds, animals, fish, soft-shelled turtles and figurines of oxen, horses, tigers and leopards that there was no room for additional items by the time Emperor Wu Di died.
It can be imagined what great suffering was brought to the people by the building of the mausoleum under Emperor Wu Di.
While the tomb was under construction, Maoxiang Township was changed into Maoling County and some 270,000 rich and powerful people moved there from various parts of China. It was during that time that Sima Qian, a well-known historian in China moved from Xiayang to Maoling.
At the end of the Western Hah Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), the Red Eyebrows Army (because their brows were painted red as a mark of identification) occupied Chang'an and took away gold and silver and numerous other treasures from the tomb. However, vandalization had already taken place before the Red Eyebrows opened the tomb.
With high walls packed with earth, Maoling was a large mausoleum surrounded by a park. According to surveys, the walls of the tomb formed a square, 400 meters along each side. The tomb mound narrowed to a flat top from a larger base in a trapezoidal form symbolizing solemnity and stability. Buildings were erected both inside and outside the mausoleum. Residences of high officials formed the innermost ring around the tomb of Emperor Wu Di while large numbers of rich and powerful people were located outside. Out palaces, bed-halls and residential structures for maids and tomb guards packed the mausoleum. Tomb magistrate, attendant official, bed-temple magistrate, tomb chief, entrance guard and other official titles were bestowed. Service to the mausoleum required some 5,000 gardeners and cleaners who also lived on the grounds.
Construction material remains from the time of the Western Han Dynasty can still be found in the ruins of the Maoling complex and in nearby rural areas. Since, hollow bricks engraved or painted with unique geometric patterns and "four deities" designs (namely, green dragon, white tiger, rose finch and spirit of water) and tiles with cloud and character patterns have often been found, as have pottery water pipelines, construction ruins and rock-covered passages. Common bricks and tiles made in the Han Dynasty can be found nearly everywhere around the mausoleum. Moreover, small pottery figurines have been unearthed in the area, all of which are lifelike sculptures from the Western Han Dynasty.
Tomb Entrance from Han Dynasty China - History
Entrance to Liu Sheng's tomb
SOURCE: Xin Zhongguo chutu wenwu (Beijing: Waiwen chubanshe, 1972), pl. 94.
This photo was taken in 1968.
|SOURCE: Zhonghuarenmingongheguo chutu wenwu zhanlan (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1973), p. 68.|
|MORE: Modern archaeology has a relatively short history in China it was not until the 20th century that systematic excavations of archaeological sites were undertaken. The first excavations, in the 1920s and 1930s, were led by foreign archaeologists and yielded rich discoveries that encouraged Chinese scientists to enter the new field themselves. In addition, the People's Republic of China, with its ideological commitment to a materialist view of history, has favored archaeological research.|
The Chinese imperial period began with the unification of China in 221 by the state of Qin and the consolidation of a huge empire under the succeeding Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220). Consolidating the empire involved not merely geographical expansion, but also bringing together and reconciling the ideas and practices that had developed in the different states. The new state incorporated elements of Legalism, Daoism, and Confucianism in its ideology but the officials who administered the state came to be identified more and more with Confucian learning. Reflecting the development of religious practices during the Warring States period, Han art and literature are rich in references to spirits, portents, myths, the strange, and the powerful.
In 1968 two tombs were found in present-day Mancheng County in Hebei province (review map). The first undisturbed royal Western Han tombs ever discovered, they belong to the prince Liu Sheng (d. 113 BC), who was a son of Emperor Jing Di, and Liu Sheng's consort Dou Wan. The structure and layout of the tombs departs from earlier traditions in significant ways. To see a drawing of Liu Sheng's tomb and learn about its layout, click here. (In the Teachers' Guide, this is below.)
Drawing of Liu Sheng's tomb
SOURCE: Wang Zhongshu, Handai kaoguxue gaishuo (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1984), p. 87.
Liu Sheng and Dou Wan were buried in two separate caves hollowed out of a mountainside. Each tomb has an entrance passage, two side-chambers for storage, a large central area, and a rear chamber in which the coffin was placed. The central chambers in both tombs originally had wooden structures with tile roofs, which have since collapsed.
Entrance passage: 65 feet long.
South side-chamber: Chariots and remains of horses.
North side-chamber: Vessels and jars for wine, grain, fish, and meat Cooking utensils and tableware.
Central chamber: 50 feet long by 40 feet wide. Large canopies, bronze vessels, lacquerware, pottery, and clay figures of attendants.
What are some differences in terms of tomb construction between this tomb and the earlier ones examined?
How do the contents of the tomb and the division of burial goods reflect changing beliefs about the afterlife?
What is the likely significance of the stone and clay figures?
Liu Sheng's tomb contained over 2,700 burial objects. Among them, bronze and iron items predominate. Altogether there were:
To the left are gold and silver acupuncture needles from Liu Sheng's tomb.
Mawangdui Han Tombs
Located in the eastern suburb of Changsha City, the world famous Mawangdui Han Tombs is one of the most fascinating attractions in Hunan Province. It is no exaggeration to say that the Mawangdui Han Tombs is an open book to the glorious West Han Dynasty (206BC-24). All three tombs were excavated between 1972 and 1974. According to the research this place was a family graveyard from at least two thousand years ago. The Mawangdui Han Tombs are very grand and complicated as well. Number 1 and Number 3 tombs were in excellent condition when excavated and Number 1 is the largest among the three. Number 1 and Number 2 tombs have been in filled. Number 3 has been preserved and covered by a ceiling for the benefit of the visitors.
More than 3,000 relics have been unearthed from the three tombs, such as silk products, silk books, silk paintings, lacquer works, potteries, bamboo slips used for writing, weapons, herbs, and so on. The number of the lacquer works is the largest, including ancient cooking vessels, boxes, kettles, plates and folding screens, and the like. Red or black colors were painted on them. Most of the potteries contain food. The mouths of the containers were tightly stuffed by grass and mud. Bamboo brands with the name of the food tied on the outside of the containers' necks. There are wooden tomb figurines both clothed and unclothed. The reason is that they had different social status according the strict ranking system during the West Han Dynasty. The silk clothes from Number 1 tomb are in a variety of styles and of fine workmanship. One of the most outstanding representatives is a silk coat which is as light as the mist and as fine as gossamer. It is 1.28 meters (about 1.40 yards) in length with a pair of long sleeves, but weighs only 49 grams. Amazing! The coffin excavated from Number 1 tomb is decorated with the odd images of animals and gods on its lacquered surface and has a relatively high artistic value.
A map excavated from Number 2 tomb of Mawangdui Han Tombs will provide another surprise. Its drawing technique is very advanced, place marks being very similar to a modern map. It was praised as 'a striking discovery' by foreigners when exhibited in America, Japan, Poland and many other countries.
Silk books, with more than one hundred thousand Chinese characters are rare historical artifacts. The content deals with ancient philosophy, history, science, technology, medicine and many other aspects.
The excavation of Number 1 tomb at Mawangdui Han Tombs can not only be considered a wonder in Chinese archeology, but also leave a profound effect world archeological history. The reason is that the corpse of this tomb's owner---a noble lady and other articles buried with the dead were extremely well-preserved for more than 2,000 years, especially the corpse. When disinterred from the tomb, her corpse was complete and the whole body was still moist and supple. Some of her joints could move her organs and surrounding tissues were still intact, and the skin still flexible she was as if she had been buried yesterday. This is hard to believe and extraordinarily rare to see both at home and abroad, but definitely true. This female corpse is a special body different from mummies and adipocere. Meanwhile it is also a scientific miracle in the study of antisepsis, shocking the whole world and attracting the attention of both scholars and visitors.
The sarcophagus of Number 1 tomb was covered by a colorful silk painting. It is the best preserved painting of its kind of Han Dynasty (206BC-220) with the highest artistic value in China. It is in the shape of the English letter 'T', so people also call it 'T' silk painting. In fact, this kind of silk painting was called 'long narrow flag' in ancient time and used for funerals. It was held by the person who headed the funeral procession and then draped over the coffin when burying the dead. This particular silk painting from Number 1 tomb can be divided into three parts. The upper part is about the heaven, the middle part is about the earth and the lower part is about the afterlife. Heaven means the end-result for life of the dead. Earth shows the wealth and nobility of the dead when alive. World after death displays the happiness of the dead in the afterworld. The whole painting is symmetrical and colorful with fine depiction, reflecting the lofty painting skill in the Western Han Dynasty. All the mysteries, strange animals and mysterious signs in the painting present us with a romantic world with its own sense of symbolism. As yet no one has been able to interpret its real meaning.
All the unearthed relics are exhibited in Hunan Provincial Museum
Luojing Stone Site (Ancestral Temple Site)
Take bus no. 117, 202, 207, 228, 230, 236, 266, 267, 289, 318, 336, 509, 600, 609, K618, 711, 717, 719, 723, 901, 932, You 10 and get off at City Library (Shi Tu Shu Guan) Station, and then take Tourist Bus No. 4 (You 4) to the terminal Han Yang Ling.
Hours of Tourist Bus No. 4 to Han Yang Ling 8:30 - 17:00 (hours of buses back: 09:30 - 18:00)
Frequency of Tourist Bus No. 4: 1 hour
Bus Fare: CNY 2
Take metro line 2 and get off at City Library Station, get out from Exit D and then you can find You 4 bus.
Entrance Charge : (excluding admiring images created by optical illusion)
Mar. - Nov. : CNY 70
Dec. - Feb. : CNY 55
Mar. - Nov. : 08:30-18:30 (tickets available from 08:30 to 17:30)
Dec. - Feb. : 08:30 - 18:00 (tickets available from 08:30 to 17:00)
In northern China during the Han dynasty, hollow clay bricks were used to construct the small, rectangular chambers of underground tombs. The doors, pillars, and lintel assembled here reconstruct the entrance to such a chamber. Before firing, the bricks were stamped with vigorous images from daily life and from mythology. This combination of subject matters reflects a dualistic view of the human soul: separating at death, one part of the soul was thought to remain in the earthly tomb, while the other ascended to a paradise—the realm of ancestral spirits and of the special beings who have achieved immortality.
Guardian images, both realistic and symbolic, are centered on each door. Two long-robed men (identified by inscription as tingzhang, village officials) flank another protective symbol, a ring-snouted monster mask. Surrounding this central square are border strips depicting scenes of entertainment and of animals, hunters, and chariots charging across mountains. Winged xian—immortal, elf-like figures—are also depicted in a mountainous setting. Other emblematic designs that appear repeatedly on these doors include a spade-shaped evergreen tree, designating family continuity and longevity, and a disk enclosing a bird in flight, which can be identified with the sun.
On the lintel above, soldiers bearing shields flank a protective monster mask. On either side of this mask, jade disks tied by cords may symbolize prosperity or other auspicious wishes for the soul. Other auspicious symbols include the dragon and phoenix (also known as the Red Bird), identified in Han cosmological texts as the animals of the east and south, respectively.
Leitai Tomb of Han Dynasty
Leitai Tomb of Han Dynasty is located in the Leitai park on the Mid Beiguan Rd., Wuwei city, Gansu province. It is a large brick-chambered tomb of the late Eastern Han Dynasty, and was discovered by local farmers under an old locust tree in 1969. Now, it is a main tourist attraction in Wuwei city on Silk Road. VVESilk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours
The tomb is famed for the Bronze Galloping Horse, known in Chinese as &lsquoMa Ta Fei Yan&rsquo, the horse is depicted in a full gallop held on just one foot upon the back of a bird in flight. The statuette is about 45 centimeters long and 35 centimeters high, weighing 7 kilograms, it has been adopted as a logo for Chinese tourism. Visitors can view the horse in the Gansu Provincial History Museum. VVESilk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours
Pyramid Tomb Unearthed in China Baffles Experts
ZHENGZHOU, HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA – Archaeologists working just west of the Yellow River discovered a mysterious find: a tomb that experts are calling the ‘pyramid of Zhengzhou’.
The find was a complete accident. The area where the tomb rests was originally a village, but construction had moved in to build a new residential compound when they stumbled across a large burial chamber. Archaeologists from the Chinese Cultural Relics Bureau were called in to do some digging. Inside the chamber, they found a surprise: two tombs that are at least two-thousand years old. One is a half-cylinder shape. The tomb next to it has caught the public’s eye. It’s strangely reminiscent of the ancient pyramids that dot Egypt’s landscape.
It’s likely the shape had some sort of religious significance. What that was, exactly, archaeologists aren’t sure, even though the shape does pop up quite often in tomb excavations in the area.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” a local in the area said. He also described the discovery as “truly magical”.
The chamber measures almost a hundred feet long by twenty-six feet wide. It’s built on a west-east axis, with the entrance facing the east and the rising sun. One narrow aisle leads to a main dome that sits next to the pyramid tomb. Both structures were built out of crumbling mud brick. Experts believe that the site dates all the way back to the Han Dynasty.
In 202 BC, Ancient China, under the ruling Han family, entered what is known as its golden age. After years under the oppressive Qin regime, where books were burned and authoritarian laws reigned supreme, the progressive Han Dynasty took power. The Han Dynasty established Chinese culture as we know it today. The dynasty had a salaried bureaucracy, followed the ideologies of the famous philosopher Confucius, and encouraged the arts. Over time, Buddhism moved in from India and was assimilated into the culture. The Han Dynasty lasted the longest out of any other Chinese Empire, ruling from 202 BC to 220 AD. Most of the architecture and artifacts we have left from this period in Chinese history consist of tombs and grave-goods, much like the one unearthed at this site.
If this tomb truly does date to that era like the experts working on it believe, then it’s a very valuable find indeed. So far, not much is known about who or what is buried inside. Archaeologists from the Chinese Cultural Relics Bureau are currently working on excavating the chamber. Excavations have been going on for nearly a month. Soon, they’ll be ready to crack it open, and perhaps the secrets of the pyramid of Zhengzhou will be revealed.