Friday, September 24, 2010

Tang Dynasty Sarcophogus Shows Ties to Silk Road Diversity

Big noses, hey?

How unfortunate and how absolutely abhorrent that the archaeological integrity of this artifact is lost forever due to looting - and it weren't no Americans over there doing it, either, although we are the country to blame for everything, aren't we. This was an inside job, probably from high up. The Chinese could teach the crooks in the Middle East and the Revolutionary Guard in Iran a thing or two, I'm sure, when it comes to official corruption and smuggling precious archaeological artifacts out of one's home country, sold to the highest bidder, screw the citizens, to whom it really belongs, and screw their rightful heritage. And you know, it's all so stupid because in the end, they end up full of worms in the ground, just like everyone else. No amount of money in the world can stop that from being the eventual fate of each and everyone of us. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle in your mouth...

From People's Daily Online, one of the propaganda pipes for the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China, but they do publish good articles on archaeology if you ignore the occasional "rah, rah!" slant.

Big noses, curly hair on empress's coffin suggests deep cultural exchange on Silk Road
17:33, September 14, 2010

Chinese archeologists have found new evidence of international cultural exchange on the ancient Silk Road.

Four European-looking warriors and lion-like beasts are engraved on an empress's 1,200-year-old stone coffin that was unearthed in Shaanxi Province, in northwestern China.

The warriors on the four reliefs had deep-set eyes, curly hair and over-sized noses -- physical characteristics Chinese typically associate with Europeans.

The 27-tonne Tang Dynasty (618-907) sarcophagus contained empress Wu Huifei (699-737), Ge Chengyong, a noted expert on Silk Road studies, said Tuesday.

Ge said one of the warriors was very much like Zues [Zeus], the "father of gods and men" in Greek mythology.

The coffin was also engraved with deer, tigers and goats.

"It's noteworthy that goats signify tragedy in Greek mythology. The word 'tragedy' itself means 'song of the man-goat singer'," he said. [Um, is something missing in this translation?]

He said the tragic element coincides with the empress's unhappy life: several of her children died young and she herself lived constantly in fear.

Ge said the exotic sarcophagus is rare for China, where ancient coffins almost always had Buddhist-themed reliefs and murals depicting harmony, happiness and peace. [I know tigers are a Taoist favorite, not so sure about deer but I believe deer were a symbol for the Goddess in ancient Persia, which had extensive trading contact with the Tang Dynasty.]

The elements of Greek mythology on Empress Wu Huifei's coffin suggest cross-cultural exchange was common in Chang'an, capital of the Tang Dynasty, located in today's Xi'an, he said. "There could have even been clergymen from Western countries serving in the Tang imperial court."

Wu Huifei was Emperor Xuanzong's favorite concubine and was posthumously known as Empress Zhenshun, meaning "the virtuous and serene empress."

Her sarcophagus - 4 meters long, 2 meters wide and 2 meters high - was stolen from her tomb in the southern suburbs of Xi'an in 2006. Police said it was then smuggled out of China and sold to a businessman in the United States for 1 million U.S. dollars.

It returned to China in April and has been housed at the Shaanxi History Museum from June.

Source: Xinhua
More information:

Tang Dynasty sarcophagus brought back home
Fri, Jun 18, 2010
China Daily/Asia News

This is what 27 tons of stone work looks like.
Photo: China Daily.

The 27-ton stone coffin of Tang empress Wu Huifei (AD 699-737) arrived at the Shaanxi History Museum on Thursday, four years after it was smuggled out of the country.

27 tons. Yeah, something 10,000 smugglers walked out of the country with tucked under their clothes.  LOL!  Look at the size of the thing!

A fascinating review of the life (and times) of Consort Wu at Wikipedia - who,it is revealed, was a descendant of the infamous (and quite incredible) Empress Wu Zetian!  Like - WOW!  The Chinese absolute hate and revile Wu Zetian, but she was one ambitious and incredibly smart woman, who survived Imperial Chinese Court life to a ripe old age - she was over 80 when she finally was forced to kill herself.  Oh my! 

More information and photographs in this report:

Tang Dynasty sarcophagus brought back home
2010-06-18 00:55:57 GMT2010-06-18 08:55:57 (Beijing Time)

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