In Shanxi's Wanrong
County 万荣县, a Northern Wei tomb has been excavated that belonged to the Regional Inspector of Fenzhou, Xue Huaiji 汾州刺史薛怀吉.
In 2019 in Taiyuan, archaeologists discovered the Tang Dynasty mural tomb of Guo Xing (or Hang 郭行) who was the governor 刺史 of Hengzhou 恒州. The tomb contains pottery, wooden figurines, a tomb inscription, and many well-preserved murals. It contains a number of "Old man under a tree" images, a number of which are filial piety stories, such as that of Zengzi 曾子, Meng Zong 孟宗, and Wang Pou 王裒. It is the largest Tang Dynasty mural tomb ever found in Taiyuan.
The Program for the Sixth Conference of the Early Medieval China Group (EMCG) is now online. The meeting will be held in the Boston Commons room of the Sheraton Boston on Thursday, March 16, 9:30-5:30. Please see the conference program page for more details.
The Early Medieval China Group (EMCG) is happy to announce that it will sponsor one or more panels on topics related to the study of early medieval China that have been accepted at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, either for the virtual conference on February 17–18, 2023, or for the in-person conference in Boston on March 16–19, 2023. Please see the call for proposals under "Resources" for more information.
A huge and important discovery. At Jingzhou's Wangjiaju Chu cemetery site 王家咀战国楚墓, 3,200 bamboo writing slips have been recovered from Tomb 798. Researchers estimate that about 700 of the slips can be restored. This tomb is 2,300 years old. The slips appear to belong to three texts: the Book of Poetry, Kongzi Yue 孔子曰. and Yue (Music) 乐. The Kongzi yue overlaps some portions of the Analects, the Book of Rites, and the Mencius. The structure of the Kongzi yue text, though, is very different from Western Han excavated manuscripts of the Analects. The portions of the Book of Poetry come from the 国风 part of the text. As for the Yue text, it consists of numbers, the Heavenly Stems, and a few simple characters. It is thought to be a musical score, but it is very hard to read. If it is a musical score, then perhaps it is a key to understanding the missing Classic of Music.
In the Zheng Jiahu cemetery 郑家湖墓地 in Hubei's Yunmeng County, archaeologists have made some terrific finds, which has earned the site a place as one of China's 2021 ten great archaeological discoveries. In the C Area of the cemetery, they excavated 116 tombs, which included over 400 lacquer goods, a number of which are quite rare, such as a tiger head pillow, a flat pot in human form? (人物扁壶), a phoenix-shaped spoon, as well as China's longest inscribed prism. 14 of the tombs were submerged under water, which not only perfectly preserved their grave goods, but also coffins, skeletons, sacrifices, and grain. Through an analysis of the skeletons, researchers have discovered that the tomb lord of M276 was a Xirong 西戎 woman who only moved south after spending her youth in the dry northern areas. The tomb occupant of M257 also was born in the north, but spent his youth in the JiangHan area. He was a warrior who was buried with three swords that had traces of being used. He died about the same time the Qin unified the Central Plains.
Nanchang's Haihunhou tomb once again yields a marvelous discovery. Researchers have pieced together the lacquered screen with the earliest depiction of Kongzi. What they discovered is that the screen had embedded within it a rectangular bronze mirror that served as a clothes mirror. The vertical mirror is 76 milimeters long and 46 milimeters wide. It also had a lacquered wood cover that would hide the mirror. On this cover is a prose-poem called a "Clothes Mirror Fu" 《衣镜赋》 and an image of Zhong Zi listening to the zither 钟子期听琴图.
In Chenzhou 郴州, Hubei, archaeologists excavated 11 tombs that date from the Han to the Tang, as well as an Eastern Han house foundation. Three of the tombs date to the Eastern Han, six to the Eastern Jin or Southern Dynasties, and two to the Tang. Two of the Eastern Han tombs (M1 & M10) had brick chambers, while the other was a vertical earthen pit tomb. M10 was relatively well preserved. Both of these tombs were relatively large, shaped like the character 中, and had a front and rear chamber. As for grave goods, M10 had an iron knife, iron nails, a bronze mirror, bronze coins, and bronze belt hooks, as well as pottery vessels and model mingqi 明器, such as a pig pen, stove, and house. Since M1 had been heavily looted most of the grave goods were badly damaged, but the pottery vessels and models had a thin layer of green glaze on them. The six Eastern Jin or Southern Dynasties tombs are relatively small single-chamber tombs, which were either much looted or heavily damaged. M11 has a brick coffin bed, while M8 and M9 have dated materials in them. One has an inscription that reads 永和三年 (347), while the other has the following inscription: 义熙十年 (414). M9 had a couple of celadon vessels. The two Tang tombs are also smallish single-chamber tombs. Those tombs primarily had porcelain vessels. M2's grave goods were in relatively good shape. It had six porcelain vessels, two of which were probably Changsha-ware.
In Datong, Shanxi, archaeologists uncovered a Northern Wei grave that contained a joint burial within a single coffin. What is distinctive about this burial is that the man and woman have been arranged in a loving embrace. Although other examples of this kind of burial have been found in Northern Wei tombs, this is the best preserved example of embracing skeletons. The male is facing left, his right hand is on the woman's waist. She is facing right, her head pillowed on the male skeleton's shoulder. Her left hand is placed on his chest. Her ring finger on her left hand has a plain, silver-colored ring. The right shoulder of the male skeleton had been infected and fractured and had not healed at the time of death.
Near the new Xi'an-Xianyang airport, archaeologists discovered a Northern Dynasties family cemetery. In the tomb passage of M3, excavators found the top section of a stele. From it, they confirmed that the tomb belonged to the famous Northern Zhou figure Doulu En 豆卢恩. Both he and his elder brother Doulu Ning 豆卢宁 were important officials during the Western Wei and Northern Zhou. Doulu En who died in 566 was particularly well-known for his outstanding military service. The Doulu family was a famous Xianbei clan that often intermarried with the royal family. The cemetery consists of four tombs. The cemetery still has its complete, surrounding ditch, so it is the most complete Northern Zhou cemetery ever found in Shannxi. The four tombs have three generations of the Doulu family. The tombs have many grave goods: 395 in all. The main body of Doulu En stele is at Xianyang's Confucian temple. The tomb of Doulu Zheng has two styles of figurines: those of the Northern Zhou and the Sui. One remarkable piece is a clay camel that is carrying a sack with the face of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine.
In Xinjiang's Luntai County 轮台县 at the ancient city site of Zorkut 卓尔库特, researchers have determined that this city had three layers of walls and that it existed from the Warring States times to the Wei-Jin period. However, it reached its peak in Han times. During Han-Jin times, this was one of the greatest cities along the northern border of the Tarim Basin. Within the eastern part of the inner city, there was a high terrace that was surrounded by walls on all four sides. There were large structures within it; indeed, one could call it the "high terrace 高台 city." The discoveries of the most recent campaign concern the high terrace city. Many of the artifacts unearthed from the Han times strata have the special characteristics of items made in Chang'an, whereas Wei-Jin era goods show influences from Kucha.
In Inner Mongolia's Wuchuan County 武川县, archaeologists have discovered a Northern Wei imperial altar that was probably constructed between 430-490 CE. This is the first time that a Northern Wei imperial altar has been found. The site was discovered in the 1980s, but its excavation only began in 2019. The altar was used by Northern Wei emperors to perform sacrifices to Heaven, or 天. At the site, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a round building; its interior diameter is 15.5 meters, while its exterior diameter is 32.5 meters. Within the building remains a small amount of sacrificial pottery has been found. Two round pens for holding sacrificial animals have also been identified. The excavating archaeologists believe the site shows the influence of both steppe and Chinese traditions of offering sacrifices.
From a cemetery in the Republic of Tuva in Southern Siberia, archaeologists have unearthed the skeletons of 87 individuals from lived between the 2nd to fourth century CE. An analysis of the skeletons determined that 25% died of violence. Most probably due to hand-to-hand combat. There was also evidence of which ritualist violence, such as scalping and throat-slitting.
James Millward has written a great, balanced historical article on the "Ballad of Mulan" for #AsiaNow.