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Archaeologists find center of Liao tombs

Author  :  Geng Xue     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2016-02-22

The painting Trip of King of Dongdan was created by Yelü Bei, who later became the King of Dongdan. He was the eldest son of Emperor Taizu, the founder of the Liao Dynasty (907-1125).

After years of searching, Chinese archeologists have made a breakthrough in their attempt to track down the final resting places of all nine emperors of the Liao Dynasty (907-1125).

The emperors of the dynasty, which was founded by the Khitan ethnic tribe, were buried in five tombs scattered throughout Inner Mongolia and Liaoning Province. Last year, the Liaoning Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology located the center of Qianling and Xianling, two tombs in Liaoning, after stumbling upon a huge, delicate architectural complex near Xinli Village, Beizhen City.

3-D modeling

Though they had limited resources, the archaeologists were able to discern some patterns in the layout of the Liao imperial tombs. In 2015, a complete single building and many complicated structural components were discovered within an area of 5,000 square meters. “Elaborately designed, Liao imperial tombs are composed of enormous architectural complexes aboveground and underground,” said Wan Xiongfei, research fellow of the Liaoning Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

Archaeologists identified Longgangzi Village and Xinli Village in Beizhen City as the central zone of Liao imperial tombs. However, more expeditions are needed to discover the exact location, Wan said.

The institute began its excavation of the Liao imperial tombs near Mount Yiwulü in 2012. Their research was conducted within a 150-square-kilometer Liao ruin complex. Supported by airborne laser mapping technology, the researchers made a 3-D electronic model and found more than 100 items of interest.

Tomb robberies

Unlike the mysterious Xianling and Qianling, all three of the Qingling imperial tombs in Inner Mongolia were plundered.

The archaeological expeditions on the Liao Dynasty started in the early 20th century. At that time, Jos Mullie, a French missionary, researched the ruins of the Liao Dynasty in eastern Inner Mongolia. Later, warlords, local officials as well as French missionaries all looted Qingling. Afterward, the Japanese controlled the excavation of Qingling in Inner Mongolia and Northeast China until 1945, and during that time, they took many precious Liao relics.

Integrated research into the Liao tombs started in the 1980s. Later, renowned archeologist Xu Pingfang classified the findings based on the regional features of different periods. This methodology was adopted in later research in most cases.

Influence of Tang, Song

Tomb excavation constitutes a major part of archaeology in China. It provides empirical materials for historical studies. Moreover, noble tombs are of great importance to ancient ritual research.

Scholars say the Liao tombs generally followed the patterns of the Tang (618-907) and Song dynasties (960-1279). In addition, they have many ethnic features. “Zuling, the early Liao tomb, is located in a sealed valley, so it is closed off, whereas Qingling, a later one, was in a screen-shaped mountain, so it is open,” Wan said. “Xianling and Qianling were built some time between, so they represent a transitional form.”

The excavation of the project will last until 2018. Academics expect the revelation provided by more clues will help guide future research.

 

  

  

 

  

  

Editor: Ma Yuhong

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