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Earliest landscape mural in the Tang Dynasty excavated

Date: 2018.02.06 Author: Phyllis Wang

Many murals with rich content and unique themes in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) have been found in the tomb of Li Daojian in Shaanxi Province, Northwest China, in which the landscape mural is the earliest mural in tombs of the dynasty. Li Daojian was the great-grandson of Li Yuan - the Emperor Tang Gaozu. His tomb, as an accompanied tomb, is located in the southwest of Fuping County in Shaanxi Province.

In 1994, the heritage department in Fuping County had a preliminary investigation to the tomb of Li Daojian and named it “Tang Dynasty Mural Tomb”. The tomb was robbed for too many times, and therefore the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology excavated and rescued it in 2017.

The grave mound was gone and most of the burial objects were stolen. There are only pottery figurines and a box of epitaphs being unearthed from the patio of the tomb. Those epitaphs indentified not only the time of this tomb, but also the details of the owner of the tomb.

The archeologists found that, although those murals were robbed and waterlogged for several times, the rest of them are still rich in content. In the tomb passages, there are murals including Kunlunnu - a character in a legendary novel in the Tang Dynasty, feathered man riding dragon and tiger and so on. Inside of the tomb, there are many murals such as dancing with music, double crane screen, sleeping line screen and the like.

The murals and the epitaphs provide vitally important foundations for the study of this tomb. The archeologists will thoroughly research the politics, arts, culture in the Tang Dynasty based on this tomb by using a combination of several methods.