Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ancient tombs of China

Luoyang, the one-time capital of China, is probably most famous for the Longmen grottoes.The most famous set of sculptures was commissioned by Empress Wu.

Under her encouragement, the practice of Buddhism in China greatly flourished. She had a political motive of course. She encouraged an interpretation of an ancient scripture which prophesied the appearance of a female follower of the Buddha would rise to rule the entire continent--an interpretation clearly meant to refer to her.

Luoyang was the capital city at times during the Tang dynasty--at least until the supply problems at the preferred capital city of Chang'an (now Xi'an) were solved. Hence, Disneyesque Tang Dynasty park.

Capital cities usually have royal tombs. Luoyang is no exception.

Burial mound of Emperor Xuanwu, of the Northern Wei Dynasty.

  Brickwork and burial site in the imperial tomb. The grave goods seem to be long gone.

Older, well preserved tombs have been found associated with the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1200 BCE) near Anyang.

 Burial pit of Lady Fu Hao, Yin Xu ruins

Evidently, someone decided that the site of the old imperial tomb in Luoyang would be a good spot to build a museum--specifically one dedicated to showing the styles of tombs from earliest China up through the Song dynasty. Many graves were relocated brick by brick from their original locations to the underground portions of the museum. So in addition to having the usual sorts of displays of grave goods and frescoes, patrons of the museums can wander through underground crypts ranging in the Han and Wei dynasties up to the Song dynasty, and see how the tombs change in material and architectural sophistication through the ages.

Han Dynasty tombs are relatively simple--rectangular, with not much in the way of interesting brick work. Doors may or may not have elaborate patterns carved into them. Grave goods were common, mostly clay, but very important people would have bronze and jade (and occasionally bits of gold).

Through time, tombs became more elaborate, and began to feature frescoes.

Han Dynasty tomb fresco

Tang dynasty tomb fresco.

Common themes in the frescoes were travel, mythical creatures, and flowers. There were also images related to the former occupation of the tomb occupants.

As time passed, tombs became increasingly elaborate, with patterned bricks, more interesting architecture, and a more diverse grave goods until during the Tang Dynasty. Possibly people grew weary of tombs constantly being looted--the remedy was to prepare paper goods for the afterlife--these would be burned as the body was interred, and at intervals afterward (reflected in today's practice of burning "money" for the deceased).

Grave goods, northern Wei Dynasty

Tricolour porcelain grave goods, Tang dynasty

Jin Dynasty painted brick

Peonies were already popular in Luoyang before the Song Dynasty, and were a common decoration in local tombs.
Tang dynasty tomb detail

 Although grave goods disappeared, the elaboration of the tombs increased through the Song Dynasty, with octagonal tombs and all manner of decorative details on bricks, and frescoes.

Detailed brickwork in an octagonal tomb, Song Dynasty


Song Dynasty tomb frescoes.

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