Stone Vessel Leads Researcher To The Lost Tomb Of Emperor Liu Zhi
An intrepid archaeologist in China has followed a series of clues from ancient texts leading to his discovery of an ornate stone vessel that he suspected indicated the lost burial mausoleum of the famous second-century ruler, Emperor Liu Zhi. Evidence of the lost tomb was discovered in China’s Henan Province. The lead researcher has presented “near-definitive” proof that the manufacturing date found on the vessel (180 AD), means it was produced when Emperor Liu Zhi’s successor, Liu Hong (or Ling), was building a mausoleum for the deceased emperor, known posthumously as Emperor Huan of Han.
Archaeologist Wang Xianqiu, from the Luoyang City Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, who led the excavation project, told Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, that he followed clues in ancient texts mentioning the location of the lost emperor's tomb. His quest in the city of Luoyang led to his discovery of the vessel which he says is “almost certainly” from the tomb of Emperor Huan, the famous Han ruler who more or less “destroyed” the powerful Eastern Han Dynasty.
The sacred vessel that led to Emperor Liu Zhi’s burial tomb. Source: Luoyang City Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute
Hunting For Emperor Liu Zhi’s Lost Tomb
The sacred burial vessel, that is believed to identify the lost Han ruler’s tomb, is shaped like a small basin and stands about 25.4 centimeters (10 inches) tall, with a circumference of around 61 centimeters (2 feet). The chalice was manufactured around the time “Ling,” Emperor Liu Zhi’s successor, was building a final resting place for the deceased emperor.
The discovery was made in Baicaopo Village, in the Yibin District of the city of Luoyang, situated on the shores of the Luo River. In 25 AD the city became the traditional capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty and remained as such for almost 200 years, until the dynasty’s collapse in 220 AD.
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Since 2017 AD, teams of researchers have been excavating a cemetery in which they found many structural elements of the tomb, including “a corridor, a well and drainage channels, and in total, over 100 other tombs.”
One of the tombs recently uncovered in the area where Emperor Liu Zhi’s tomb was located (Luoyang City Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute)
Emperor Liu Zhi’s Tomb Provides New Han Burial Rite Insights
The suspected mausoleum of Emperor Liu Zhi is located at the northeast corner of the ancient cemetery and notes in ancient literature suggested to Wang Xianqiu that the burial grounds’ “administrators, guards, low-ranking concubines and other workers lived at the site, perhaps alongside nobles tasked with keeping vigil over the emperor's tomb.” Wang told Xinhua that the discovery of the inscribed vessel “contributes to scholars’ understanding of how burials were conducted for emperors in the Eastern Han dynasty.”
Wang Xianqiu told China.org that his finding of the vessel and the tomb was of significance for studying the layout and the burial systems of Eastern Han Dynasty emperors. And the archaeologist is convinced this is where Emperor Liu Zhi was buried. But “who” was he and why is he “credited” with destroying the Eastern Han Dynasty?
Emperor Liu Zhi (ruled 146-168 AD) was famous for empowering the eunuchs and essentially bringing down the Eastern Han Dynasty. (Public domain)
Emperor Liu Zhi: The Emperor Who Got It Wrong
According to an article in Week in China, Emperor Liu Zhi (ruled 146-168 AD) was famous for empowering the eunuchs, a move that contributed to “the gradual fragmentation of the Chinese empire by alienating his elite courtiers.” High-level state corruption during this period came to a climax in 166 AD when university students rose up in protest against the government. The students called on Emperor Liu Zhi to eliminate all corrupt officials but instead he ordered the arrest of all the students involved.
According to an entry on China Knowledge, Emperor Liu Zhi has largely been viewed as an “emperor who might have had some intelligence but lacked wisdom in governing his empire; and his reign contributed greatly to the downfall of the Eastern Han Dynasty,” which collapsed in 220 AD, causing China to split into three warring states known as the Three Kingdoms.
Thus, the new discovery is momentous in that it marks the whereabouts of the last ruler of one of the most powerful dynasties in all Asian history.
Top image: A Chinese Emperor. Source: shupian / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie