Yongling Mausoleum In Chengdu Sichuan Province.
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Situated at Sandongqiao, west suburb of Chengdu, the Yongling Mausoleum is where Wang Jian (847-918; reigned: 907-918), founder of the former Shu Kingdom (907-925) in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960), was buried. He was born in Henan, Central China and lived there most of his life at the end of the Tang Dynasty, when royalty was weak and warlords were locked in combat, competing for control of the country. When Wang Jian was very young, he regarded cattle slaughtering and salt transporting and selling as his career. Towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, he joined the Tang army and a few years later rose to the rank of a powerful warlord. In 903, he was named king of Shu by the Tang court. With the collapse of the Tang Dynasty in 907, Wang Jian set up his own kingdom in Chengdu, Sichuan. During his 11-year reign, the kingdom was one of the most powerful and richest ones in the southwest. After he died, he was buried in Chengdu. Kings usually liked having their mausoleums built deep in the earth, but Wang Jian was an exception because Chengdu abounded in underground water in ancient times. If a Mausoleum was buried deep, the coffin could be easily decomposed. Wang Jian’s is one of only a few excavated Chinese mausoleums constructed above ground. When building the Yongling Mausoleum, workers first used large stones to make the arch-shaped coffin chamber above ground, and then they covered the chamber with thousands of tons of mud. Since the Mausoleum was constructed for more than 1,000 years ago, many earthquakes occurred in Chengdu, but the chamber, without any supporting pillar in its center, never failed to support the heavy mud. Famous Chinese architect Liang Sicheng (1901-1927) visited the stone chamber in the 1950s, he marveled at its structure. When visitors enter the mausoleum’s main gate, they will find their way into the Mausoleum along a paved path lined with stone statues of Wang Jian’s subjects, both civilian officials and generals. With a height of 15 meters and a diameter of 90 meters, the outside of the Mausoleum resembles a huge mound. Inside the mausoleum, there is the stone coffin chamber measuring 30.5 meters across, 6 meters wide and 20 meters in height. The chamber consists of three parts: a huge stone platform, a stone vessel and a seated stone statue of the owner of the mausoleum. The platform is in the center of the chamber. Wang Jian’s coffin was placed on that platform. When the Mausoleum was exhumed in 1942, the coffin was found to have rotted. No bones were found; only remains of wood and iron rings on the coffin. At the end of the chamber is an 86-centimeter seated statue of Wang Jian. Depicting the king vividly, the statue is a cultural relic on the national treasure level. Between the statue and the platform is a huge vessel that used to contain oil to light an “everlasting lamp.” Although the light could never last forever, the oxygen in the Mausoleum was consumed with the lighting of the lamp, preventing objects in the Mausoleum from decaying quickly. Despite the coffin chamber’s seeming emptiness, music and dance lovers may find the relief sculptures of two women dancers and 22 musicians on the south and north sides of the stone platform appealing. All of them were members of Wang Jian’s imperial band. All 22 players are seated and playing different instruments, including the clapper, flute, zither, and waist drum, conch and orange leaf. Looking plump, the dancers and players are wearing Tang costume. A music aficionado, Wang imitated the imperial band of the Tang Dynasty and set up his own band in the court. Archaeologists said that the relief sculptures are the most preserved sculpture of the imperial band of the Tang Dynasty. They provide valuable materials for the study of sculpture, music in the imperial court, organization of the imperial band and women’s costume in the Tang Dynasty. Wang Jian’s mausoleum was sacked soon after his kingdom was overthrown by another state in the north. Even so, about 400 relics, including silverware, jade, copper, iron and earth, were found during excavation work. One of the most valuables is a jade seal for the dead king to use in the other world. The seal, 11.7 centimeters by 10.7 centimeters and 3.4 centimeters, is one of only two seals for the otherworldly to have been discovered in a Mausoleum of a king or emperor in China. The other seal was found in the mausoleum (commonly known as Dingling) of Emperor Wanli (1573-1620) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Beijing, which is frequently visited by both domestic and overseas visitors. Along with 500 relics dating back to the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, a replica of the jade seal is on display in an exhibition hall to the right of the mausoleum. Relics from that short periods Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms have seldom been discovered. This makes the treasures in the hall more important for the study of that period.