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Ancient female ‘prime minister’ in China

Archaeologists uncover tomb of ancient female ‘prime minister’ in China


Archaeologists in China have discovered the burial chamber of a 7 th century ‘prime minister’, who was one of the most powerful women in China’s ancient history. 

The finding was made in the northern province of Shaanxi and was confirmed by an inscription on the tomb, which displayed ochre-coloured earth, arched passageways and a number of ceramic horses.  However, no gold or silver treasures, or complete bones, had been found at the site and there was evidence of significant damage, suggesting a “large-scale, organised” and possibly “official destruction,” said Geng Qinggang, a Shaanxi-based researcher.

The female politician, named Shangguan Wan’er, lived from 664 to 710 in the Tang dynasty and was a trusted aide to China’s first empress Wu Zetian.

She married Wu’s son, while having relationships with both the ruler’s lover and her nephew. As a sequence of murders, coups and affairs enveloped the dynasty, Shangguan Wan’er’s husband Li Xian briefly became emperor — only to be killed by his senior wife, who took power herself.

She was deposed in turn by Li Longji, who killed both her and Shangguan Wan’er.

The discovery of the tomb with the epitaph has been cited as a finding of major significance in the study of the Tang Dynasty.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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