Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Tomb of Liu Ji- Tang Dynasty

The Grandest Tomb of Tang Dynasty Found in Beijing— Tomb of Liu Ji

The tomb of Liu Ji was found in the process of some foundational construction in the year of 2011, who 
was the military governor (Jiedushi) of Lulong Circuit of Tang Dynasty. From the year of 2012 to 
2013, authorized by SACH (State Administration of Cultural Heritage), Beijing Institute of Antiquity 
has excavated the tomb as a means of rescue, and set forth a series of projects concerning 
preservation and research.


The tomb of Liu Ji is located in Changgou Town of Fangshan area, which is only 56 kilometers away 
from the capital Beijing. Lying from north to south, the tomb is 34-meter-long, and is composed 
of ten sections: slanting passage, door, front yard, front passageway, side chamber, niche, 
main burial chamber, side burial chamber, rear passageway and rear chamber.


overall view of the excavated tomb


In the south end of the tomb lies the 11.5-meter-long slanting passage. It is flanked by walls, on the  
surface of which is spread a layer of grey-clayed surface hiding behind another layer of lime. 
Beautifully painted, the frescos on those walls are divided into two layers: the lower part is painted 
at Liu’s burial, while the upper at his lady—Madame Zhang’s burial. The earth filled the passage 
had been rammed, resulting in a rather distinguished stratification.
  
Located in the northernmost end of the passage, the door to the front yard is constructed by bricks 
laid with alternative courses, covered with lime and painted in color.


The front yard finds itself north to the door. From there it runs northwards, connecting the door to 
the front passageway. The room measures 2.86 meters from east to west, and 1.94 meters from 
north and south. An epitaph for Madame Zhang is positioned in the center.


two epitaphs found in Liu Ji's tomb

5.2-meter long and 2.4-meter wide, the front passageway runs to the north of the front yard, and 
further connects it with the main burial chamber. On its east and west walls covered with grey clay 
and lime, then beautifully painted in color. Side chambers and niches are found along the passageway. 
An epitaph of Liu Ji is placed here.


unearthed epitaphs and murals

The floor plan of the side chambers is shaped as square with rounded angles. Brick-chambered, its 
walls are also covered with lime and then beatified by frescoes. Located on the east of the front yard 
and heralded by a 1.1-meter-wide door, the east side chamber is 2.1-meter wide from east to west 
and 2.3-meter from north to south. The west side chamber stands west to the front yard; its door 
measures 1.2 meters in width. The chamber itself is 2-meter wide from east to west and 2.3-meter 
from north to south.

The niches are nearly rectangular. Its walls are spread by lime. On its bottom, traces of painted 
Padmāsana (“Lotus Throne”) can be seen. Both niches are found in the southern half of the passage; 
the eastern one is 1.2-meter wide and 0.6-meter long, while its western one is 1.3-meter wide and 
0.65-meter long.

The door to the main burial chamber is located in the northern part of the front passageway. It is built 
by rectangular bricks, and measures 7.6 meters from east to west and 8 meters from north to south. 
As for the shape, it is nearly square-like but with rounded angles. The threshold, gate pier and pillars 
are all made of stone and very well preserved. The threshold is 1.8-meter long, 0.15-meter wide and 
0.31-meter high. The height of the pillars ranges from 2.42 to 2.43 meters; and tenons are found on 
both ends. On the pillars are exquisitely carved peonies with curling leaves. Flanked on its eastern 
and western side by two chambers, the walls of main burial chamber is spread with lime of 
considerable thickness, on which the frescoes depict scenes of instrumental performances and 
dancing with various colors including red and black. In the center of the northern part of the chamber 
is found a stone base. It is supposed to bear the weight of a wooden coffin and a stone outer coffin, 
which, unfortunately, has not survived. An everlasting lamp made of stone stands in the southeastern quarter of the room. The stone base, seen from the top, is trapezoidal in shape with the southern side longer than the northern; it is built by bars of stone alternatively laid. A painted figurine of a civil officer 
and a figurine of military office are also found in the main burial chamber.
Following the main burial chamber and standing on the northern side, the rear passageway bridges 
the main and the rear chambers. In shape, the passageway is a rectangle 2.9 meters in length and 
1.5 in width. In its southern end stand two column bases carved out of alabaster, on which sit two 
columns for the door; both are decorated with carved peonies with weaving branches.

                                                                             carvings in relief on stone base

stone coffin base
The rear chamber sits in the northernmost point of the tomb. Built with bricks, it is nearly square in 
shape but with rounded angles. The room measures 3.7 meters from east to west, and 3.6 meters 
from north to south. All walls are covered with lime, on which frescoes are painted.

Various burial goods are found within the passageway, side room, side burial chamber, main burial 
chamber and rear chamber. Based on materials and mediums, they can be sorted into jade, stone, 
clay, porcelain, bronze, iron, turquoise, amber, glass, painted wares and frescoes. All of them are 
of the highest historical, scientific and artistic values.

unearthed gold and silver ornaments
Stone artifacts include epitaphs for Liu Ji and his lady Madame Zhang, base for the coffins, figurines, 
and other components. Madame Zhang’s epitaph bears relief of the 12 Chinese Zodiacs, painted in 
color and highlighted with gold; it is the first time that such epitaph has ever been unearthed from 
the period of Tang Dynasty. Most of the other relief in front of tomb depicts tigers etc.. The figurines 
of civil officer and military officer are counted among the better preserved. In particular, they are 
rarity with its smoothly carved lines, lively countenance, and delicately depicted attires.

stone figurines

In great quantity and covering an area of considerable enormity, the frescoes are highly valued, especially
to the fields of history and art. With scenes of performances, daily life, servant girls, animals and plants, 
the frescoes convey to us the customs, costumes, and ways of entertainments of the concerning time period. They are indeed a priceless resource to the study of Tang society—especially aristocratic life 
and liberal arts—in the area of Beijing.

Porcelain ware is dominated by white glazed porcelain bowls, white glazed spittoons, and Chengni-inkstones.

Other unearthed antiquities include jade ornaments decorated with floral patterns, jade ornaments with swastika inscription, turquoise ornaments, amber, glass, “Kaiyuan tongbao” coin, bronze armor scales 
and iron armor scales.
  
Clearly dated, Liu Ji’s tomb is the grandest in terms of scale and standard in the area of Beijing in Tang Dynasty. Speaking of format, it is a faithful heir to Tang burials in the Central Plain of China. Producing 
a large quantity of material evidence, it is indeed a treasure horde to the study of military governor 
system and burial formation of Tang Dynasty. The tomb’s significance to the history of Beijing region 
is not to be underestimated.    (Translator: Su Minjie)

1 comment:

retriever said...

I am be facination when i have visiting China.Great palce , muséums, civilisation.