Royal tomb constructed by glazed-bricks from Liao Dynasty found in Kailu, Inner Mongolia
Jinbaotun cemetery is situated 5km southeast of Jinbaotun, Kailu County, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and northwest of Qijiazi ancient cemetery from Liao Dynasty. From the end of June to the beginning of September 2016, salvage excavations of two heavily looted tombs in Jinbaotun were conducted jointly by Museum of Kailu County and Inner Mongolia’s Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. The tombs were numbered as M1 and M2.
The chamber of tomb M1
The gate of eastern side chamber
M1 was a brick-built multi-chambers tomb, consisting of tomb passage, vaulted passage, tomb gate, east and west side-rooms and a main chamber. It’s about 24 meters long and the bottom of the tomb chamber was about 7 meters below the ground. The sloping tomb passage was about 16 meters long and 4~6 meters wide. The rectangular entrance of the path was sealed by 3 rectangular stone slabs. Inside the path, it was piled and filled by glazed-bricks to reinforce it. The vaulted passage was 4.5 meters long and 1.8 meters wide, it was originally in arc shape and constructed by bricks, but now it’s collapsed. The ground was paved by large rectangular bricks. Both sides of the vaulted passage had murals on them, most of which are fallen off the walls. There is a picture about a man takes a horse in the northern part of east wall. Besides, there was an ink inscription with more than 100 Chinese characters on the east wall, which recording the identity of the tomb owner. In the middle of the vaulted passage, there were side-rooms on both of it. The plane of the east side-room was square with a 2.4 meter-long side. A pavilion roof top was built corbelled about 1.4 meters higher than the chamber ground. The top was blocked by huge rectangular stones. The height of the tomb chamber was about 3.1 meters. The wall paintings in the east side-room were relatively poorly preserved. Part of the picture illustrated a male servant from Khitan was on the east wall of tomb chamber, and a symmetrical cloud and crane picture was on the top of the tomb gate. The west side-room was heavily broken and the wall paintings were poorly preserved, most of which was fallen off the wall. Only on the north side of tomb gate in west side-room, there was a male servant in Han Dynasty clothing. The main chamber was square in plane with an about 3.9 meter-long side and green-glazed brick walls. A pavilion roof top was built corbelled about 1.36 meters higher than the chamber ground. Now, the top of the tomb has already collapsed, only 2.8 meters high residue. The ground of the chamber was paved by rectangular black bricks. In the northern part of the main chamber, there was a square bed being constructed by glazed bricks. The skeleton of tomb owner was badly preserved, only partial skull and limb bones left. Relatively few burial gifts were unearthed from the tomb, including gilding parts of harness, iron arrowheads, pottery shards and so on.
Cloud and crane pattern on the mural
M2 was a single stone chamber tomb. It consists of tomb passage, tomb gate and main chamber. The front end of the passage was sloping, while the part close to the gate was stone-built steps. The sealing stone of the tomb gate was made of a huge stone and 2.4 meters high, 1.6 meters wide and about 0.2 meters thick. The chamber was about square, 3.9 meters long, 3.8 meters wide and about 2.9 meters high residue. A pavilion roof top was built corbelled about 1.36 meters higher than the chamber ground. A rectangular niche was placed in the southern part of east wall, 1.6 meters long, 0.7 meters wide and 1.4 meters high. There should have been paintings on each wall of the chamber, but now most of them were fallen off, only part of wall paintings about locus patterns, cloud patterns or human figures left. Coffins and skeletons of tomb owner were all absent because of several loots. Only a few burial goods were unearthed from the tomb, including porcelain shards, gilding copper bubble-shaped stud, bone hairpins and so on.
M1 and M2 should belong to one family cemetery. According to the analysis in terms of the tomb forms, wall paintings and porcelain shards from the tombs, they should be dated back to the early period of Liao Dynasty. The discovery of these tombs is of significant importance, providing important materials for archaeological and historical research on Liao Dynasty and making great achievements.
A male servant from Khitan
The scales of M1 and M2 are large. Particularly, tomb M1 was built by green-glazed bricks. In many other kinds of tombs from Liao Dynasty, tomb M1 is the second tomb built by green-glazed bricks found so far since the discovery of Yelvyu tomb in Ar Horqin Banner, Chifeng City. Therefore, the tomb is predicted to be of quite high rank and the tomb owner should be an eminent royal member of Liao Dynasty. Based on the ink inscription written in Chinese characters (script) remained in the vaulted passage of M1, it should be a tomb of a royal member from Liao Dynasty and the tomb owner should be Yelv Pugu (耶律蒲骨).
Although M1 and M2 were all looted for several times and had only a few burial gifts, the wall paintings left within them were precious. The themes of paintings are about that a man takes a horse, human figure, symmetrical cloud and crane pattern, flowers and herbs and etc. They give us precious materials for research on social life and ritual practices of Khitan nationality from Liao Dynasty.
A man leading a horse
The inscription in ink containing more than 100 Chinese and Khitan characters (script) were discovered on both walls of the vaulted passage in M1, giving important material for further research on specific position of ancient city of Longhua state from Liao Dynasty.
Longhua state of Liao Dynasty was built in 902 AD. As “private city” of Yelv Abaoji (耶律阿保机), the first founder of Liao Dynasty, it’s also the place where he claimed to be an emperor. Therefore, it was of relatively high rank in the cities of Liao Dynasty and was an important one. However, its location has not been identified yet. Taken the ink inscription unearthed from this excavation and other archaeological evidence into consideration, it’s basically safe to locate Longhua state of Liao Dynasty to a Fuju ancient city of Liao Dynasty, about 25km east to Jinbaotun cemetery. (Translator: Ma Huanhuan)