Ancient Chinese Brick from Tomb Doorway

Ancient Chinese Brick from Tomb Doorway

Ancient Chinese Murals Saved From Tomb Robbers

A colorful, well-preserved "mural tomb," where a military commander and his wife were likely buried nearly 1,500 years ago, has been uncovered in China.

The domed tomb's murals, whose original colors are largely preserved, was discovered in Shuozhou City, about 200 miles (330 kilometers) southwest of Beijing. Researchers estimate that the murals cover an area of about 860 square feet (80 square meters), almost the same area as a modern-day bowling lane.

Most of the grave's goods have been looted, and the bodies are gone, but the murals, drawn on plaster, are still there. In a passageway leading into the tomb, a door guard leans on his long sword watching warily. Across from him, also in the passageway, is a guard of honor, supported by men on horses, their red-and-blue uniforms still vivid despite the passing of so many centuries. [See Pictures of the Ancient Mural Tomb]

Inside the tomb itself, the man and woman who had been interned are depicted enjoying a banquet while sitting under a canopy. A man plays a tall harp while two other musicians hold windpipe instruments. At the tomb's entranceway, another mural shows four men blowing into long horns.

In addition to the commander's wife there are a number of females depicted in the tomb. Some of them are attendants and a few appear to be musicians (one of them carrying a windpipe instrument). The archaeologists note that all the females, including the wife, are depicted with their hair in the shape of a "flying bird."

Another scene features a tall red horse ready to be mounted. In another scene is a carriage pulled by a tan ox and driven by two men, each with black hair and curly beards (possibly foreigners).

And then there is the dome itself, which shows how the ancient Chinese viewed the heavens.

"The domed ceiling is painted uniformly in dark gray color to signify the infinite space of the sky. The Silver River (representing the Milky Way) flows across the sky from the southwest to the northeast, and inside the river are fine fish-scale patterns representing waves in the water," wrote archaeologist Liu Yan, who reported the discovery, in translated English, in the most recent edition of the journal Chinese Archaeology. A longer version of the article, written in Chinese, was published earlier in the journal Wenwu.

Yan notes that, on either side of this Silver River, white dots represent the stars, alongside representations of the moon and sun, with the sun bearing a "gold crow" at its center. Supernatural beings and zodiac animals are depicted below this sky map.

Tomb raiders

The tomb was uncovered in a salvage excavation in 2008. Yan said that the tomb had been robbed three times before he got to it, and most of the grave goods, including the bodies, were gone. In fact, the thieves were making preparations to steal the murals, too, but the authorities arrived just in time to stop the theft.

"Tomb robbers had already made preparations for removing the murals. The blue lines that were drawn to divide the murals into sections for cutting and the gauze fabric used for reinforcing the murals before detachment still remain on the surface of the walls," Yan wrote. [Maya Murals: Stunning Images of King]

When authorities discovered the tomb, a team of scholars from several Chinese antiquities institutions began excavating the site and conserving the murals. Based on these murals and the tomb design, along with a few remaining grave goods, the scientists determined the tomb dates back nearly 1,500 years, to the Northern Qi Dynasty.

A military commander

Archaeologists believe the couple buried at the site consisted of a military commander, in charge of the Shuozhou City area, and his wife. This makes sense given the date of the tomb.

Historians know that at the time this couple lived, three rival dynasties battled for control of China. The buried commander served the Northern Qi, a short-lived dynasty that lasted between A.D. 550 and 577, when it was conquered by another group of rulers known as the "Northern Zhou."

Needless to say, military leaders were in high demand at this time, and military experience was the key to obtaining power.

"The Zhou and Qi states both exemplified military dynasticism," Stanford University professor Mark Edward Lewis wrote in his book "China Between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties" (Harvard University Press, 2009). "Their rulers had risen through military service and based their powers on a central army," he writes.

In such an environment, it appears, a local military commander could afford a finely decorated tomb for the afterlife.

Imperial Mausoleum Architecture

It mainly has three characteristics: stylish, super splendor scales and harmonious unity of human with nature. Among the countless amazing gardens of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the most significant one is the Huaqing Palace, where the romantic story of Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yangyuhuan took place. A number of fine halls and pavilions were erected, rows upon rows, along Lishan Mountain dotted with beautiful flowers. It is indeed an elegant sight during sunset. More functions were added to the imperial gardens in the Qing Dynasty. Emperors were not satisfied by merely living and playing in gardens. They made gardens venues for theatre-going and praying. Big and small picturesque gardens were just like precious stones dotted about. Summer Palace, one of the four famous gardens in China, symbolizes the highest achievement of the imperial garden during the Qing Dynasty. The present famous gardens also include: Beihai Park in Beijing and The Mountain Resort of Chengde.

Four Quarters of the Sky

Ancient Chinese further divided sky into four quarters, each consisted of 7 major constellations.

While 7 constellations in the east represent Green Dragon, 7 in the west assembled into White Tiger.

The south and the north are occupied by Red Bird and Black Turtle respectively, but these two regions are said only to play minor supporting roles in the big cosmic drama.

As 28 major constellations were organized into a heavenly network, ancient Chinese could easily measure the movement of the sun, the moon and the five major planets against the network background.

The Secret Tomb of China's 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside?

Buried deep under a hill in central China, surrounded by an underground moat of poisonous mercury, lies an entombed emperor who's been undisturbed for more than two millennia.

The tomb holds the secrets of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died on Sept. 10, 210 B.C., after conquering six warring states to create the first unified nation of China.

The answers to a number of historical mysteries may lie buried inside that tomb, but whether modern people will ever see inside this mausoleum depends not just on the Chinese government, but on science.

"The big hill, where the emperor is buried &mdash nobody's been in there," said archaeologist Kristin Romey, curatorial consultant for the Terracotta Warrior exhibition at New York City&rsquos Discovery Times Square. "Partly it's out of respect for the elders, but they also realize that nobody in the world right now has the technology to properly go in and excavate it."

The Terracotta Warrior exhibition, featuring artifacts from the Qin dynasty and nine life-size statues from the extended burial complex built for Qin Shi Huang, is on display through Aug. 26. [Photos: Terracotta Warriors Protect Secret Tomb]

The warring states

Qin Shi Huang (pronounced "chin shuh hwang") was born in 259 B.C., first son to the king of Qin, one of six independent kingdoms inside modern China. These kingdoms had been warring for more than 200 years, but through a combination of military strength, strategy and natural disasters, Qin Shi Huang conquered them all, proclaiming himself not just a king, but also an emperor &mdash the first of China.

Scholars still debate the details of how this occurred, and what unique tactics allowed the Qin emperor to achieve what no one had managed before.

When he died, Qin Shi Huang was buried in the most opulent tomb complex ever constructed in China, a sprawling, city-size collection of underground caverns containing everything the emperor would need for the afterlife. The ancient Chinese, along with many cultures including ancient Egyptians, believed that items and even people buried with a person could be taken with him to the afterlife.

But instead of burying his armies, concubines, administrators and servants with him, the Qin emperor came up with an alternative: clay reproductions.

Shocking discovery

In 1974, a group of farmers digging wells near Xi'an, China stumbled upon one of the most shocking archaeological discoveries of all time. The life-size terracotta solider they dug out of the ground turned out to be just one of an army of thousands, each utterly unique, with individual clothing, hair and facial features.

For almost four decades, archaeologists have been excavating the site. So far, they've uncovered about 2,000 clay soldiers, but experts estimate there are more than 8,000 in total.

"They're going to be digging there for centuries," Romey predicted.

Still, scientists have yet to touch the central tomb, which holds a palace containing the body of Qin Shi Huang.

"It's really smart what the Chinese government is doing," Romey told LiveScience. "When we went into [Egyptian King] Tut's tomb, think about all the information we lost just based on the excavation techniques of the 1930s. There's so much additional that we could have learned, but the techniques back then weren&rsquot what we have now."

"Even though we may think we have great archaeological excavation techniques right now," she said, "who knows, a century down the road if we open this tomb, what they're going to say?"

To open the tomb?

The decision whether to explore the tomb anytime soon, or ever, is up to the government of China. That decision will likely be influenced by the pace of technological progress.

"In archaeological conservation, every year you have major new developments," Romey said. "When we began excavating [the soldiers] in the '70s, the minute they were exposed to air and sunlight, the pigment just flaked off. Now they&rsquove figured out a new technique where they can actually preserve the paint as they excavate."

Perhaps, if science advances enough, that excavation wouldn't cause serious damage to the burial site, and the tomb will finally be opened. [Album: The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World]

"I wouldn&rsquot be surprised if you had some sort of robotic visual survey going in there at some point," Romey said.

And despite their desire to protect the treasures of antiquity, archaeologists are itching with curiosity to find out what's inside Qin Shi Huang's central tomb.

Rivers of mercury

Ancient writings say the emperor created an entire underground kingdom and palace, complete with a ceiling mimicking the night sky, set with pearls as stars. Pits full of terracotta concubines have never been discovered, though experts predict they exist somewhere in the complex.

And Qin Shi Huang's tomb is also thought to be encircled with rivers of liquid mercury, which the ancient Chinese believed could bestow immortality.

"It's kind of ironic," Romey said. "This is probably how he died, by ingesting mercury. He was taking all these mercury pills because he wanted to live forever and it killed him by the age of 39."

That moat of mercury also presents another reason why archaeologists are loath to explore the tomb just yet &mdash doing so would likely be very dangerous, according to soil samples around the tomb, which indicate extremely high levels of mercury contamination.

In the end, scientists and historians must always weigh their desire to know more with the damage such inquiry would cause.

"Archaeology, ultimately, is a destructive science," Romey said. "You have to destroy stuff in order to learn about it."

Jin Dynasty Warriors

One of the consequences of the War of the Eight Princes was the weakening of central authority. In the preceding centuries, nomadic non-Han Chinese tribes had settled in the northern part of China, and these peoples seized the opportunity to revolt against the Jin and to establish their own states. The Uprising of the Five Barbarians began in 304 AD and lasted until 316 AD. The rebels were victorious, which ushered in a period known as the Sixteen Kingdoms. As for the defeated Jin, they fled to the south, where the Eastern Jin was established.

Palace Lady' detail from 'Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies' ( 女史箴图), 344 - 405 AD. ( Public Domain )

Apart from the imperial court, the northern aristocracy fled to the south as well. It was a delicate balancing act for the rulers of the Eastern Jin, as they had to ensure the peaceful co-existence between the northern aristocrats and their southern counterparts.

Although the Eastern Jin never quite succeeded in establishing a foothold in the south, they did manage to resist attacks from the north, and were even somewhat successful in their military campaigns against them.

Tomb figurine of a Jin Dynasty warrior, earthenware - Östasiatiska museet, Stockholm. ( CC0)

Ancient Chinese Brick from Tomb Doorway - History

Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum

The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum is implementing special precautionary measures and admission with quotas to help ensure public safety. All visitors are requested to wear a mask and children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Visitors are required to use the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app or register personal information on site. Please be prepared in advance.

Please also be informed that the Tomb Finds Gallery of the museum will be temporarily closed from 1 June to 15 July 2021 for facilitating the museum's maintenance work. Visitation to the Exhibition Gallery and the Han Tomb will not be affected. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.

The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb was discovered in 1955 when the Government was levelling a hill slope at the Lei Cheng Uk Village for the construction of resettlement buildings. According to its structure, inscriptions on the tomb bricks and tomb finds, it is believed that the tomb was built in the Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25 - 220). The tomb was declared as a gazetted monument in 1988 and is preserved permanently thereafter. Though it is closed to the public for conservation reasons, visitors can still have a glimpse of the interior of the tomb through the glass panel at the entrance passage.

The exhibition hall was built adjacent to the tomb. In addition to the display of pottery and bronze wares excavated from the tomb, there is an exhibition namely "Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb" on display. Texts, graphics, photos, maps, videos and models are used to introduce the geographical situation, discovery and structure of the tomb. "Trade Passages: A Pictorial Exhibition of the Silk Road in the Han Dynasty" is also on display. Visitors can have a better understanding of the explosion of trade in the Han dynasty.

How to get to Daxu Ancient Town

Entrance Fee Free of charge
Opening Hours The whole day

Following is a recommended one-day tour route for your reference:
Guilin Crown Cave Gudong Waterfall Scenic Area Daxu Ancient Town Guilin

1. Firstly, take a bus from Guilin Chief Station to Crown Cave, an underground karst cave that enjoys a kaleidoscope of stalactites.
2. After visiting, you can take a bus to Gudong Lukou, and then take a tricycle to Gudong Waterfall. It is the only multilevel waterfall formed by underground water. The joy of visiting Gudong Waterfall lies in exhilarating waterfall trekking experience. Recommended time for a visit is two to three hours.
3. Following the direction board, you will soon find the place to wait the buses to Daxu Ancient Town. About half an hour later, you will reach the town. Spend an hour strolling in the primitive ancient town, and then you can put an end to the journey and take a bus back to Guilin.

Ancient Chinese Brick from Tomb Doorway - History

An exhibition of portrait bricks from northwest China's Gansu Province is underway at the National Museum of China in Beijing, showcasing how the lives of ancient people were depicted on clay.

This is the first time that the 258 bricks featuring drawings from the Wei and Jin Dynasties, from 220 to 420 AD, are being exhibited.

Themes include deities such as the Vermilion Bird, a pheasant covered in flames, and White Tiger, which is linked to virtue and peace, as well as aspects of daily life such as weather, agriculture, traffic, and food.

The artifacts are from the Hexi Corridor, a historic route linking northwest China and Central Asia, and dating back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-AD 220), some 2,000 years ago.

"The portrait bricks in this area have a strong flavor of life, and the paintings are vivid and lively, reflecting Hexi residents' love for life at that time and their spiritual outlook, as well as their artistic creativity," said Chen Kushuang, the curator.

"The content is very rich, including farming and hunting, travel, and entertainment, all aspects, and their spiritual world. Through this exhibition, we want to give the audience an understanding of the inner cultural connotation of our Chinese tradition, and then further enhance our cultural confidence," he added.

Portrait bricks on display at the exhbition. /CGTN

The slabs feature painted, or carved images on the surface. These were mainly discovered in tomb chambers and their owners have yet to be confirmed.

The artistic form has a history of nearly 15 centuries, dating back to the late Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.).

Portrait bricks are in essence an art for funeral ceremonies. They also play a significant role in the history of Chinese fine arts.

"This exhibition also reflects the cultural background and appeal of Hexi portrait bricks. The design mainly absorbed a lot of traditional Chinese cultural elements, such as the use of the structure of the bucket arch in the hall. And the color and tone extracted from paintings from Han Dynasty, and the way and method to display all the exhibits," Pan Yi, the exhibition's designer, told CGTN.

The exhibition, a collaboration between the Gansu Province Museum and eight other institutions from the region, will run until August.

Gold Treasures Discovered in Ming Dynasty Tomb (Photos)

Archaeologists have discovered a Ming Dynasty tomb at a construction site in Nanjing, in China, revealing the skeleton of a woman named Lady Mei, along with brilliant gold treasures. Here's a look at the gold treasures and Lady Mei's tomb. [Read the full story on Lady Mei's tomb]

Archaeologists in Nanjing, in China, have unearthed a Ming Dynasty tomb that belonged to Lady Mei. Inscribed stone epitaphs found in the tomb say that she died in the year 1474 at the age of 45. Within the tomb archaeologists found fantastic gold artifacts inlaid with gemstones. This image shows a gold hairpin with a flame design. The diameter of the hairpin is 11.2 centimeters (4.4 inches). It still has six sapphires and six rubies on its outer layer while there is a large ruby at center. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Detailed work

A side view of the hairpin with the flame design. The pin itself is 12.3 centimeters (4.8 inches) long and the weight of the artifact is 115.4 grams (about 4 ounces). (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

More beauty

A pair of gold bracelets found in the tomb. Both of them are about 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) in diameter. The bracelets have flower designs and the gemstones are a mix of sapphires, rubies and turquoise. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Assorted gems

This gold hairpin is decorated with a mix of sapphires and rubies. The hairpin is 14.2 centimeters (5.6 inches) in width and its weight is 148.7 grams (more than 5 ounces). (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Meticulous decorations

A fragrance box with gold chain. It is decorated with lotus petal decorations and seven characters written in Sanskrit. The remaining gems include four sapphires, five rubies and one turquoise. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Excessive wealth

A gold hairpin in the shape of a chrysanthemum (flowering plant). It has a large ruby at center and a mix of smaller sapphires and rubies on its petals. The diameter at the largest point is 11.7 centimeters (4.6 inches). The total weight of the artifact is 218.2 grams (more than 7.5 ounces). (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Amazing details

Two gold hairpins with branches and tendril patterns. The hairpin at left has three sapphires, three rubies, one crystal and one turquoise. The one at right has two sapphires, four rubies and one cat&rsquos eye stone. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Beautiful accessories

A gold hairpin with a seven petal lotus design. A large ruby gemstone is still preserved at center. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Ancient beauty

The brick tomb was excavated in 2008 by archaeologists from Nanjing Municipal Museum and the Jiangning District Museum of Nanjing City. Their report was initially published, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu and was translated into English and published in the most recent edition of the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. This image shows a black and white image of the tomb&rsquos exterior. The tomb has a vaulted roof. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

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