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Fascinating Figurines Accompanied a Chinese General and his Princess Wife to the Afterlife

Fascinating Figurines Accompanied a Chinese General and his Princess Wife to the Afterlife

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Over 100 grave goods accompanied a Chinese general and his princess wife to the afterlife. The elite couple were buried in 564 with a collection of figurines. Their double burial likely had some importance due to their positions in society – this is evident not only from the grave goods, but also the location of their grave and a charming sandstone inscription alongside their bodies.

The archaeologists, who published an article on the find in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics, have described the figurines as being mostly painted pottery with well-preserved colors. There were warriors, camels, oxen and carts, drummers, and a guardian placed in the tomb to protect the couple. Live Science reports that the tallest of the figurines measures 22 inches (56 centimeters) in height.

Some of the figurines found in the tomb.

Some of the figurines found in the tomb. (Chinese Cultural Relics)

As for the delightful animal figurines, such as the ox and camel, they may have been thought to have served a practical purpose for the couple in their afterlife.

Figurines of a camel and an ox.

Figurines of a camel and an ox. (Chinese Cultural Relics)

Another tomb found near Taiyuan provided a similar set of grave goods. Found in 1979, the tomb of Lou Rui also contained figures of guards, warriors, servants, and musicians meant to serve him in his life after death. Lou Rui’s Northern Qi Dynasty Tomb was rich – even after being looted it still contained over 850 artifacts and a carved, gilded, and painted stone door as well as what the Clark Art Institute calls “the finest known set of ancient Chinese tomb paintings.”

Archaeologists from the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Shanxi University's School of History and Culture, Taiyuan Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and the Agency of Cultural Relics and Tourism of Jinyuan District, Taiyuan city found the impressive double burial during excavations at a cemetery near modern-day Taiyuan city too. The general and princess were one of the 69 tombs they unearthed. The mountain location for their final resting place may have had a symbolic meaning as well, being located on the "eastern foothills of the Xishan Mountains, on the west bank of the Fenhe River.” [via Live Science]

This belief is supported by the sandstone inscription found in the couple’s tomb, where it reads: “If the mountain peak's roots are firm, it can contend in height with Heaven and Earth; deep and brilliant, solid and bright, it speeds far away along with the Sun and Moon; civil and martial seek each other, and so men are naturally there…”

The inscription also provided the archaeologists with some wonderful insight on the couple’s lives and death. Speaking of the princess, Neé Liu, it says she “was modest and humble, and sincerity and filial piety were her roots. Her accommodating nature was clear, her behavior respectful and chaste.”

The burial of Princess Neé Liu and General Zhao Xin.

The burial of Princess Neé Liu and General Zhao Xin. (Chinese Cultural Relics)

Her husband, General Zhao Xin, was also a governor at times in different areas of China. Referring to his final employ, the inscription describes how he “disposed of the Yi barbarians and exterminated the enemy, and the public flocked to him.” This was when he led a garrison of soldiers to victory during a battle at or near Huangniu Town. The general died when he was 67, still serving the rulers of the Northern Qi dynasty.

The inscription does not explain why the couple were buried together on March 18, 564. Live Science says that an analysis of the bones has not been provided yet – leaving speculation open for their death being related to war, illness, sacrifice of one or both people, or for some other purpose.

Top Image: Figurine of a warrior with well-preserved colors (Chinese Cultural Relics) and a guardian to protect the couple and their tomb. (Chinese Cultural Relics)

By Alicia McDermott

Alicia McDermott's picture


Alicia McDermott holds degrees in Anthropology, Psychology, and International Development Studies and has worked in various fields such as education, anthropology, and tourism. Traveling throughout Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Alicia has focused much of her research on Andean cultures... Read More

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