Monday, 20 June 2011

1,000-year-old murals make public debut in China

Murals unearthed from the tomb of Princess Yongtai

XI'AN, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Rare murals at least 1,100 years old that were unearthed from tombs in northwest Shaanxi Province debuted publicly Monday at a newly-opened exhibition hall in Xi'an.
The first-ever exhibition of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) murals at Shaanxi History Museum displays 97 pieces of rare murals found in tombs of imperial family members, including princes and princesses, said Cheng Jianzheng, curator of the museum.
The murals were painted on walls of imperial palaces, residences of aristocrats, temples, grottoes and tombs in ancient China.
While most murals in tombs and underground grottoes were found well-preserved, many others, painted in wood-and-earth structures on the ground, had either perished with the buildings themselves or been eroded by the changing temperature and moisture, Cheng said.
To ensure the quality preservation of the murals, they are being displayed in a temperature-and-moisture-controlled environment, Cheng said.
Archeologists say most of the murals unearthed from tomb chambers portrayed scenes of the tomb owners' daily life and were buried with the dead as important funeral offerings.
As only the rich and powerful had murals in their tomb chambers, most of the works portray maids, officers and officials. Many feature hunting, dancing and sporting scenes that represented lifestyles of the upper class.
All the murals were unearthed near Xi'an, which was capital for 13 dynasties and the starting point for caravans that traveled along the Silk Road from China to central and west Asia.
This is why foreigners often appear in Tang Dynasty murals, Cheng said.
The 4,200-square meter exhibition hall is a Sino-Italian project supported by 4.03 million euros of low-interest loans from the Italian government and 18 million yuan from the local government of Shaanxi Province.
All the exhibition facilities have been imported from Italy, which ensures the murals are well protected from harmful gas, dust and human damage.
Shaanxi History Museum, built in 1991, houses more than 1,500 square meters of Tang Dynasty murals unearthed from 20 tombs.

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