In July, 2013, eighteen tombs dating to Han and Tang dynasty were excavated in the southern suburb of Xi’an by Institute of Cultural Relics Protection and Archaeology of Xi’an city in cooperation with local infrastructure. Among the tombs, seven dated to Han dynasty, nine to Tang dynasty and one to Song dynasty. Most remarkably, with rich contents and accurate chronological records, the epigraphs discovered from five Tang tombs are providing significant information for the research of Tang tombs in local region.
Seven tombs dating to Han dynasty are all brick-chambered tombs, five of them with shaft passages and two with sloping passages. Unfortunately, the tombs were serious looted and destroyed, leaving behind little information about the burial furniture or form. However, three tombs have well-preserved sealed door constructed by transversely or longitudinally paved rectangular bricks. Here, M18, the best preserved one, will be introduced briefly as following.
M18 consists of three parts, which are a passage, a side chamber and a main chamber. It is lying from south to north. The sloping passage is rectangular in plane. The length measures 2.3m, while the width is 0.9m and remaining depth is 1.8m. Steps are found on the east and west sides of the passage. The main chamber is rectangular too and tiled by bricks, measuring 4m long, 2.4m wide and 0.9m high residual. Its arch roof tiled by wedge-shaped bricks and walls and floor paved with strip brick. The grave goods found in the main chamber are one broken glazed pottery hu-vessel, one pottery cake-shaped ware and one Wuzhu coin. The side chamber is on the east side of the main chamber. It’s a rectangular earthen cave with brick-paved floor, measuring 1.6m long, 1m wide and 1.3m high. The unearthed objects are three glazed pottery jars, one pottery fu-cauldron, one pottery pen-basin, five glazed pottery granaries and one glazed pottery lid for zun-vessel.
28 grave goods are found from seven Han tombs (except the bronze coins). Among them, ceramics account for the biggest percentage. And they are mainly gray clay wares and glazed red pottery wares. Not only pottery vessels imitating bronze ritual objects including ding-tripods, he-vessels, and hu-pots and so on, but also the daily-use funerary objects such as jars, barns, ovens, fu-cauldrons, zeng-steamers, pen-basins, zun-vessels, cake-shaped ware and etc, are found in the tombs. In addition, there are bronze mirrors and Wuzhu coins as well as iron sword. The jade and stone objects are mainly jade objects which are placed in the mouth of the deceased.
ceramics plate from tomb M3
ceramics pot from tomb M3
Nine Tang tombs are all catacomb burials with a sloping passage. The tombs are knife-shaped in plane and lying from south to north. They consist of a sloping passage (entrance hall, shaft), a vaulted passage and a chamber. The funerary furniture includes three wooden coffins. The deceased are lying in extended supine position, and headed towards the north. The details of the sealed door could not be figured out as these tombs were heavily looted. Now relatively well-remained M6 will be presented as an example.
M6 includes passage, entrance halls, shaft, vaulted passage, niches and chambers. The passage located in the southernmost of the entrance hall, is rectangular in plane. It measures 1.2m long, 1.1 wide and 0.4 high remaining. The tomb has three entrance halls and three vertical shafts, which are all in rectangular plane. The artifacts from the rectangular vaulted passage include one iron lock, two animality patron in tombs, two heavenly king figurines and one epigraph. The niches in the east and west side of the vaulted passage are rectangular earthen caves. Pottery from the east niche include one mill, one kitchen range, one chicken, one well and one pig. The chamber is roughly square in form with arched roof, measuring 3.4 meter from south to north, 3.36 meter from west to east and 2.3 meter remaining high. Its east wall is slightly curved and the floor has been paved by bricks. A rectangular brick-tiled platform is in the west part of the chamber, on which a wooden coffin is set. Two skeletons were found, leaving behind only bones of legs. The heads are identified as facing the north. Murals in the chamber were poorly preserved. The objects inside the chamber are eight pottery jars, two pottery drum-shaped utensils, thirteen clay figurines, eleven figurines of a rider on a horse, one clay goats, one silver bowl, one bronze mirror, several bronze coins, one golden slice, one silver fu-cauldron, one headwear, one jade ornament, two shellfish and etc.
artifacts group from tomb M6
126 objects were unearthed from nine Tang tombs with the exception of bronze coins, including pottery, porcelains, bronzes, silvers, bones, stones as well as shellfish. Pottery are jars with deep and straight belly, tower-shaped jars, lamps, drum-shaped vessels, cups, and the models of kitchen range and well, animal figurines (including pigs, dogs and goats), figurines of maids and males, figurines of a rider on a horse, heavenly king figurines, animality patron figurines, bricks with epigraphs and etc. Porcelains include plates, jars with four ring handles and he-vessels. Bronze objects recovered range from mirrors, coins (kaiyuan tongbao) and so on. Silver objects include mainly bo-bowls and fu-cauldrons. What’s more, there are also tablets engraved inscriptions, bone hairpins, shells, beads and etc.
Within five epigraphs, two are engraved on bricks and three on stones. The epigraphs from M8 and M9 are on square bricks, which side length measure 30cm and thickness 5cm. The characters engraved on tablets are black regular scripts. Inscription of “tang gu fuchun sunshi muzhiming” (the epigraph of a person whose family name is Sun from Fuchun in Tang dynasty) is found in M8. The epigraphs from M5、M6 and M10 are on stones. The tomb stone from M5 are inscribed “tang beihai wangshi zhangshangnv muzhi” (the epigraph of the first daughter of the Wang family living in Beihai in Tang dynasty) in it. The epigraph recovered from M6 are “sui gu sili cishi lijun muzhi zhiming” (the epigraph of Mr. Li, a local official in Sui dynasty). While the inscription of “sui gu xuanwu xianzhang lijun muzhi zhiming” (the epigraph of Mr. Li, the magistrate of Xuanwu County in Sui Dynasty”) is unearthed from M10.
jade ornaments from tomb M10
M4, the only tomb of Song dynasty, is catacomb burial with earthen shaft passage and orientating 170 degrees. It consists of a passage and a chamber. The passage located in the southernmost part is trapezoid in plane. The remaining height is 1.9m while the length is 2.4m and the width is 0.9-1.12m. The chamber is a rectangular earthen cave and with the shape of Chinese character “凸” in plane. Its middle part is slightly curved to the north. Three persons are arranged in three wooden coffins and all in extended supine position. Moreover, two bronze coins (xining yuanbao) are unearthed.
As new material, the inscriptions on the tablets from four Tang tombs which are inscribed more than 2700 Chinese characters will greatly enhance the research of burials and history of Tang dynasty in Xi’an region. (Translator: Ma Huanhuan)