Fengqiyuan (Chine) - Important Discoveries from a Family Cemetery of the Western Han
Important Discoveries from a Family Cemetery of the Western Han at Fengqiyuan, Xi'an
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The Fengqiyuan family cemetery of the Western Han is situated at the Fengqiyuan Plain to the south of Xi’an. It is a large cemetery centering around the graveyard built for Zhang Anshi during the reign period of the Xuan Emperor of the Western Han. With the archaeological excavation approaching the end in 2010, the nature of the cemetery has been further clarified. In addition, a new group of information, including the typological features of tomb No. 8 and the nature of the terracotta army buried as burial objects in the tomb, information pertaining to such issues as the basic layout of the cemetery, the construction sequence, and the relationship between the graveyard and the cemetery, have also been collected. Some valuable remains together with more than 600 objects, including gold, bronze, iron, primitive porcelain, pottery, and jade objects, have been discovered.
Remains of a road and the drainage system of the graveyard:
An east-west road was discovered in the north section of the graveyard in May, 2010. Its east end connects with the north end of the Ancestral Hall (citang) while the west end reaches the north part of the tomb ramp. The road is meticulously planned and orderly constructed.
The pavement has been long gone, survived only by the interior section of the foundation. The excavation indicates that the road is 35 meters long, 2.5 meters wide, and the surviving height is 0.4 meter. The foundation of the road breaks and overlays the filling soil of the accompanying burial ditch K2 that lies to the west of the tomb, while its east end is broken by the ramp of tomb No. 1. No traces of reparation can be observed. This phenomenon suggests that the road should be constructed later than the main tomb (M8) as well as its accompanying burial K2. It indicates as well that the road functioned as the main route connecting the main tomb (M8) and its Ancestral Hall (first phase).
Remains of s drainage system have also been found inside the graveyard. They are located in the northeast section of the side room No. 1 of the main tomb M8. The finely made pottery pipeline, with a diameter of 25 centimeters, is installed 40 centimeters beneath the ground of the day.
Remains of the main tomb (M8):
To build the main tomb, a complex process of excavating, constructing, and filling was involved at that time. Now the tomb functions not only as important evidence showing the high level of civil engineering of the time, it also functions as some valuable material evidence of the complexity of the ancient funerals. Meanwhile, from the pound earth filling in the tomb chamber as well as the outer coffin chamber is found a series of traces that might be used by scholars to reconstruct the original earth-pounding and constructing techniques. Most significant among them are regularly distributing holes and impressions that were formed after the decay of the ropes and the wood chocks. The average diameter of the ropes ranges from 1 to 2 centimeters.
Hundreds of fine burial objects are found inside the front outer coffin chamber and the three side rooms of the main tomb. The main outer coffin room had been severely robbed and burnt. The objects inside the room had long been burnt to ashes. In the middle of the outer coffin chamber and near the wooden coffin, 9 complete jade bi disks together with some broken jade bi disks have been found. The archaeologists also discovered a few fragments of jade clothing and jade tubes, golden objects, bronze rings, bronze studs, wuzhu coins, pottery dou, and pottery jars.
The accompanying burial ditch K6
Six accompanying burial ditches were built for the main tomb M8. More than two thousands pieces of terracotta and wood army of figurines are found from these ditches. K6, which was excavated this year, yields more than 500 terracotta figurines, more than 20 wood figurines, together with multiple wood miniature chariots.
The orderly placed pottery and wood armored figurines are fully armed. Each is armed with a set of different weapons, including iron dagger-axes, halberds, spears, swords, and crossbows. Depending on their locations, the deployments of the weapons for the figurines are varied with some governing regulation, indicating the original Han way of army formation and weapon deployment.
The area where the wood figurines are found has yielded bronze bells, battle-axes, traces of banners, and bronze seals, all related to the function of military command. Eleven seals marked with different names of army rankings seem to be especially related with the wood figurines. They are arranged according to the hierarchy of ranking. The silver seal with a turtle button has the highest rank, the bubing xiaowei (Commandant of the Infantry), which is the position Zhang Anshi held according to the Han texts.
M25 (the wife’s tomb):
The side room of the tomb was cleared in March, 2010. It is an excavated cavern structure with a wooden outer coffin and a brick door to close in the chamber. The main burial objects are potteries and a chariot of one fourth of the real size. A wealth of burial potteries include grey pottery jars, pottery (primitive porcelain) kettles, pottery (primitive porcelain) lei, and some small pottery jars made specifically for burial purpose. Studies have shown that the pottery kettles and the lei were manufactured in Zhejiang and Jiangsu regions. On the shoulders of the lei and the kettles are carved patterns of phoenixes and birds. Each group of patterns has nine phoenixes and birds. （Translator：Wang Yudong）