In north China’s Shanxi Province, a northern dynasties tomb has recently been cleaned up and opened to the public. After five months of work, more than two hundred square meters of painted frescoes have been restored. What makes this tomb special is one particular fresco which depicts a wooden building, the first of its kind discovered.
This Northern Dynasties tomb, which dates back about 1,500 years ago, is one of the Jiu Yuan Gang tomb complexes in the city of Xinzhou. It’s a rectangular single-room tomb built with bricks. The walls at both sides of the ramp are in terraced shape with painted frescoes on each level.
“It’s the first time that we discovered painted frescoes arranged in this style in tombs of the late Northern Dynasties. As you can see, some gods and spirits are painted in the upper frescoes, and hunting activities in the next level, then the soldiers’ return from the hunt in the bottom.” said Prof. Yang Hong, Archaeology Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Science.
Experts say the size and content of these frescoes are far more impressive than those in other tombs of Northern Dynasties, especially the vivid portrayal of hunting activities. A fresco on the northern wall of the ramp has caught attention, which depicts a grand wooden building. The construction method of skew arch used in this building has never before been found in the historical records on the Northern Dynasties.
"This wooden building fresco is the finest one that we’ve ever found in tombs of late Northern Dynasties. It precisely and clearly depicts the structure of the wooden building. Its skew arch has two folds, which we previously believed was first adopted in Tang Dynasty. But now this fresco means the Northern Dynasties had already mastered the skill. This is an important discovery for the history of ancient architecture." said Professor Yang Hong, Archaeology Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Science.
Unfortunately, this tomb has been robbed, with the wholesale removal of frescoes from the walls. Only few burial relics and human bones have been found, which makes it difficult to confirm the gender and age of the person who was buried here. But experts say the size of the tomb indicates it must have been someone in a high position.
Now the site is under tight protection. 3D technology has been adopted to collect information of the frescoes by scanning, and further research into the tomb is underway.