Photo: Huashang Newspaper
The tomb of Shangguan Wan'er (664–710), an influential female politician and poet during the regime of Empress Wu Zetian (690-705), was found in Xianyang city, Shaanxi province, according to the provincial cultural relics bureau on September 9.
The tomb was found near the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport. Although it was badly damaged, and only a few burial accessories were found, archaeologists concluded that the tomb was built for Shangguan Wan'er, also known as Empress Wu's secretary, based on the inscription on the memorial tablet inside the tomb.
The discovery of the tomb and the epitaph is of great significance to the research into the history of the Tang Dynasty, said Du Wenyu of Shaanxi Normal University.
The archaeological site of the tomb is closed, as cleaning and discovery work is still underway.
Being dubbed one of "the four most talented women" in ancient China, Shangguan was praised as a "female prime minister" during the regime of Empress Wu Zetian.
Shangguan's grandfather and father were both important officials, yet both were killed because of her grandfather's opposition to Wu's power grab. Shangguan herself was demoted to slave along with her mother, but later she won the empress' appreciation for her talents in poetry and management of state affairs, and served as a secretary for the empress. In 710, she was put to death for involvement in a coup plot.
Tomb found of ancient Chinese female plotter
Chinese archaeologists have discovered the tomb of a 7th century female politician who was one of the most powerful women in the country's ancient history, local media said on Thursday.
Illustration: Chinese archaeologists have discovered the tomb of a 7th century female politician who was one of the most powerful women in the country's ancient history.
Shangguan Wan'er -- who lived from 664 to 710 in the Tang dynasty -- was a trusted aide to China's first female emperor Wu Zetian, and married to Wu's son, while having relationships with both the empress's lover and her nephew.
As a sequence of murders, coups and affairs enveloped the dynasty, Shangguan Wan'er's husband Li Xian briefly became emperor -- only to be killed by his senior wife, who took power herself.
She was deposed in turn by Li Longji, who killed both her and Shangguan Wan'er.
The site was discovered near an airport in Xianyang in northern Shaanxi province and confirmed by an epitaph, China Radio International said on its website.
"The discovery of the tomb with the epitaph is of major significance in the study of the Tang Dynasty," the China Daily said, citing a historian specialising in the era, Du Wenyu.
The grave was badly damaged, suggesting a "large-scale, organised" and possibly "official destruction", Geng Qinggang, a Shaanxi-based archaeology researcher told the China News Service on Thursday.
Shangguan Wan'er was also recognised for her poetry.