Paintings in a Yuan Dynasty tomb had beautifully painted scenes from stories of Filial Piety.

Spectacular paintings found in 700-year-old Chinese tomb

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An elaborate, beautifully painted tomb was found when rains washed away soil and revealed a capstone on a hillside in China. The tomb dates to the Yuan dynasty, about 700 years ago.

Scholars believe the man entombed was Mongolian, though the clothes, furniture and murals show influences of Han culture. ‘So the tomb-owner might also be Han, but wearing Mongolian clothes,’ archaeologist Miao Yifei told China.org.cn . ‘The murals are both beautifully painted and in very good condition, just thinking that they've been there for some 700 years.’

The tomb is on a mountain in the village of Luo Ge Tai, Hengshan County, north Xanshi provice.

“It is composed of a pathway with a dome-shaped chamber. A mural depicts the tomb-owner seated with his five wives, the background being a check-patterned screen. Their outfits and the vessels on the table in front of them shed light on the ethnicity of the tomb-owner,” the article in China.org.cn says.

Filial Piety stories of popular legend are also the subject of the paintings. The book The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety was written by the Yuan Dynasty scholar and poet Guo Jujing of Fujian Province. After his father died he felt deep grief.

‘His depth of feeling prompted him to comb the histories in search of true stories of the finest examples of filial respect, as practiced by devoted children throughout the centuries,’ says a page at ruf.rice.edu , which includes text of the 24 stories. ‘He selected twenty-four such paragons, and penned a verse to eulogize each authentic account of filial practice. Then he told a story of the events that lead to each son or daughter's examplary conduct. The book that resulted from his work was called The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Devotion .

China.org.cn says Filial Piety stories were often painted on Yuan Dynasty tombs in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and northern Shanxi Provice.

‘It indicates an active cultural exchange between these three provinces during that time,’ the article states.

The murals and tomb reveal a lot about people of the Yuan dynasty in Shanxi and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous region, the China.org.cn article states.

In October 2014 scholars found a Ming Dynasty tomb dated to 1568 with beautiful paintings, the first time one was found in the Hunan Province of South Central China.

Figure paintings were found on the wall of an ancient tomb unearthed in Qunyi village, Wanbao town, Loudi city, Hunan province, Oct 14, 2014.

Figure paintings were found on the wall of an ancient tomb unearthed in Qunyi village, Wanbao town, Loudi city, Hunan province, Oct 14, 2014. [Photo by Guo Guoquan/Asianewsphoto]

Another tomb, this one from 1,000 years ago, was found in China and reported in November 2014 by Ancient-Origins.net .

The entrance to the 1,000-year-old tomb found in Datong, China. (Chinese Cultural Relics photo)

Live Science reported that the finding was first made in 2011 by the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology, and published in the Chinese journal Wenwu. However, the discovery has only just come to light in the English-speaking world following a translated paper published in Chinese Cultural Relics.

The tomb wall had the verse:

Time tells that bamboo can endure cold weather. Live as long as the spirits of the crane and turtle.

Although the tomb occupant was missing from the 1,000-year-old tomb, the finding has nevertheless provided an in-depth understanding of its owner through the presence of vivid murals depicting scenes from his life. Another surprising feature of the tomb is a ceiling richly decorated with stars and constellations.

Another surprising feature of the tomb is a ceiling richly decorated with stars and constellations.

A thousand years ago, China was controlled by the Liao Dynasty (also known as the Khitan Empire), which ruled over Mongolia and portions of the Russian Far East, northern Korea, and northern China from 907 to 1125 AD. Khitan was a multicultural empire that incorporated Han Chinese into the government, and it is possible that the tomb’s occupant was one such member.

The murals in his tomb depict the man’s travels with horses and camels, as well as a scene consisting of a deer, crane, bamboo trees, yellow turtle and the poem.

One of the murals depicts a black and white cat with a ball in its mouth and a black and white dog next to male and female attendants. There is an empty bed between the animals. 

Scene depicting an empty bed with two pets on either side as well as male and female attendants (Chinese Cultural Relics photo)

Scene depicting an empty bed with two pets on either side as well as male and female attendants (Chinese Cultural Relics photo)

Featured image: Paintings in a Yuan Dynasty tomb had beautifully painted scenes from stories of Filial Piety.

By Mark Miller

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