6th Century Crown of Chinese Empress Revealed for the First Time in its Full Glory
Chinese archaeologists have restored the crown of a 6 th century Chinese empress of the short-lived Sui Dynasty that shared the land with peasants, instituted the Buddhist religion, and united north and south China into a cohesive unit after centuries of strife and warfare. The magnificent artifact is the oldest imperial crown ever discovered in China.
In 2012 researchers unearthed the crown from the tomb of Empress Xiao, wife of the second and last Sui Dynasty emperor, Yang. The tomb is in Yangzhou in what is now called Jiangsu Province.
Archaeologists discovered the crown in a rotted wooden box. It was restored at a relic restoration laboratory called the Cultural Relic Protection Institute in Shaanxi Province in China’s northwest.
From photos on the blog Archaeology News Network, which quoted Xinhua News Service, it appears the ancient crown was in bad shape, but the restorers, led by Yang Junchang of Northwest Industrial University, did a beautiful job of restoring it.
Professor Yang said his team cleaned the crown’s fragile copper wires and restored 13 flower decorations done in gilded (gold-covered) bronze wires. Attached to the wires are delicate representations of the stalks, petal and stamen of flowers, the blog states. In addition to the gilded bronze wires, the crown is composed of pearls, cotton and silk.
The crown was in bad condition until it was restored by Chinese experts. [Credit: CNS/Tian Jin]
Another archaeologist, Shu Jiaping of the Yangzhou Institute of Archaeology, said researchers re-established the ancient materials and art and craft that went into the making of the royal crown.
Accounts say the empress for whom the crown was made, Xiao, known also by her formal name Empress Min, was clever and beautiful. She herself was of royal descent, a daughter of Emperor Ming of the Western Liang Dynasty.
She suffered tragedy as a young child. Her father believed that her birth, in the second month of the lunar calendar, was inauspicious and banished her to the care of her uncle, Xiao Ji, prince of Dongping. Xiao Ji and his wife soon died, and then she was raised by an impoverished maternal uncle, Zhang Ke, and she was required to do manual labor to survive.
This photo shows the beautiful gilded flowers of the crown after restoration. [Credit: CNS/Tian Jin]
Emperor Ming has been an ally of Emperor Wen of Sui in northern Zhou’s civil war in 580. Wen wanted to cement ties between the two realms by marrying his son to a daughter of Ming, but fortune tellers said none of Ming’s daughters was suitable. But Ming recalled Princess Xiao from her Uncle Zhang’s house, and the seers declared her suitable for a royal marriage. She and Yang Guang were wed. She took the title of the Princess of Jin.
A mask of the Sui Dynasty, which lasted from just 581 to 618 AD (Wikimedia Commons photo/Sailko)
Yang Guang was the son of the founding emperor of the Sui Dynasty, Wen. This dynasty reunified China for the first time since the 3 rd century under the Han Dynasty. Yang and Wen ruled from Chang’an, which is now called Xi’an. The dynasty endured from just 581 to 618 AD, but they took land from greedy aristocrats and shared it with poor farmers, did important infrastructure improvements and allowed the spread of the religion of Buddhism. They also reunified north and south China since the first time since the Han Dynasty of the 3 rd century.
Featured image: The newly restored ancient crown of a Chinese Empress [Credit: CNS/Tian Jin]
By Mark Miller