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The royal tomb unearthed in Henan province, which may belong to the empress of Cao Rui (

Royal Tomb from The Three Kingdoms Period Excavated in Central China

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An enormous tomb thought to be that of an empress during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD) was discovered in central China's Henan Province. Situated to the south of Xizhu Village in the Luoyang City, the tomb is 170 ft (52 meters) long and about 44 ft (13.5 meters) wide, expanding to a depth of 39 ft (12 meters) down a ramp, as the people in charge at the Luoyang City Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute announced. Specifically, Shi Jiazhen, head of the institute said, "Its layout and seven flights of stairs suggest the tomb belonged to a high-level royal figure in the Cao Wei state. Judging from the objects we uncovered and historical records, it might the empress of Cao Rui”.

The Three Kingdoms Period and The Paradoxical Reign of Emperor Cao Rui

Just as the name clearly indicates, the Three Kingdoms were made up of three kingdoms - Wei, Shu and Wu. As a single dynasty, the Three Kingdoms Period originated in 220 AD when Wei replaced the Eastern Han Dynasty, and ended in 280 AD when the Wu was defeated by the Court of Jin. It is seen by many historians as one of the most intriguing Asian historical periods, full of bloody battles but also sophisticated military strategies. Cao Rui, arguably the most intense and colorful historical figure of the Three Kingdoms Period, was the second emperor of the Cao Wei. Even though he was known for being an excellent military strategist and a lover of martial arts, he was also notorious for spending incredible amounts of money and labor on construction projects, building palaces and ancestral temples, while his harem was consisted of thousands of concubines. However, his building projects that undeniably exhausted the imperial treasury, are the ones that contemporary archaeologists and historians are thankful for most of the information we can get about that historical period.

Cao Rui was the grandson of Cao Cao (155 – 220 AD), a powerful warlord, merciless tyrant, and military genius. In 2009, the Henan Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau claimed to have found Cao Cao’s tomb, which has a similar size and layout to the one recently found.  However, many experts were skeptical as to whether it really was the final resting place of the infamous ruler since he is known to have had 72 coffins made, which were carried out to 72 burial sites on the day of his funeral in order to prevent looters finding his true resting place.

The tomb of Cao Cao, which has a similar layout to the one recently found.

The tomb of Cao Cao, which has a similar layout to the one recently found.

The Tomb was Discovered Accidentally by a Villager in 2015

According to the institute, the tomb of the empress was accidentally found by a villager on July 19, 2015 and the concerns and fear of robbery and looting led the people in charge of the institute to begin the excavation straight away. According to Shi Jiazhen, the archaeologists will have a very tough mission to draw out all the information they need since the tomb has already been severely damaged by robbers as early as in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), and many tiles have been taken away. The team of archaeologists have so far excavated more than 400 pieces of ceramics, lacquer, bronze, iron and jade as well as some 100 stone tablets recording the objects buried inside the tomb while the excavations are expected to continue intensely for the next few months.  

A small sculpture found within the newly-discovered tomb

A small sculpture found within the newly-discovered tomb (

Top image: The royal tomb unearthed in Henan province, which may belong to the empress of Cao Rui (

By Theodoros II



I really look forward to get these historical e-mails, and send links to my friends! Great work!!!

Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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