A Rarely Seen Sui Tomb Excavated at Taiyuan


In July of this year the Shanxi Provincial Kaogu yanjiusuo, Taiyuanwenwuju, the Jinyuanqu wenwu luyouju and other units organized an archaeological team and at Wangguocun, Jinyuanqu, Taiyuan City excavated a rarely seen Sui dynasty tomb, at the middle of which was a completely preserved marble sarcophagus, rich in carved content, special in artistic style leading to the wide attention of the scholarly world.



The tomb is a single chamber brick tomb with slanted passageway, the tomb itself is square with bowed walls, 3.8 meters in width and depth. The tomb was pillaged early on, what is left is the marble sarcophagus, a octagonal marble cooumn, a stone head of a donor, pottery figurines, a white porcelaneous wan-bowl, epitaph and over 80 coins. This is the first discovery of a Sui marble sarcophagas. It was placed in the center of the chamber, toward the back, modeled after a wooden structure, composed of three parts: stand, walls and top. Below the stand are eight stone felicitous beasts distributed among the four corners, holding up the stone sarcophagus. On the stone are stood the marble walls, the area of three bays.?? On top of the walls is placed the lid, in the shape of a single eaved gable roof. What is especially rare is that on the four sides of the stand and walls is carved a decor rich in content, the decor of which is painted or traced in gold, so that under the sun's rays it glitters with color. Looking at the content of the carvings, the most important are scenes of feasting, music, hunting, home, and processions, with many depictions of warriors on horseback or on camels loced in combat with fierce lions, the scenes are brutal causing one's hair to stand on end. The people in the carvings all have deep eyes, high noses, and curly hair; the clothing, utensils, musical instruments, dance steps and decorative flowers, trees, animals such as bridled birds, horses with ribbons on their legs, or grape-like decor all come from Central Asia, the various countries of Persia, permeated with the strong decorative color of the Central Asian people, reflecting the characterisitcs of the deceased's people, religious customs and Sasanian culture. 


On the basis of the epitaph, the deceased was named Yu Hong ‡ÖÄÉ, cognomen Mopan æñ†Œ (anc. m’k-p'u’n), a person of Yuguo ÑáÉÕ, who had held office under the Ruru, Persians, Tuyuhun, Northern Qi, Northern Zhou and Sui. During the Northern Zhou he had held the post of jianjiao sabao fu Êœ¼¨ü¥O©æ, in charge of the Zoroastrian temples and affairs of the various peoples of the Wewstern Region, and he had traveled to the countries of Anxi and Yuezhi, and had died at his home at Jinyangfu Ýèþ©æ, Bingzhou }{ in Kaihuang12 (592) at the age of 59. 


On the basis of this material this is the only marble sarcophagus using carving and color with its content to reflect the culture of the Central Asian people, and at the same time is a piece of material data which reflects most richly the ancient cultural interchange between East and West, and which has most important value and significance for the study of the East-West cultural interchange in the period of the Northern Dynasties and the Sui.



[Zhongguo wenwubao Oct. 24, 1999]