Ancient Chinese frescoes found in Qi dynasty tomb

Ancient wall paintings were discovered in northern China in a 1,400-year-old royal tomb found during the construction of one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, a national water transport system. The detailed frescoes found in the tomb in Cixian county in Beijing’s neighbouring Hebei province depict honour guard officials from the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577), the report said.

The tomb itself had belonged to Gao Xiaoxu, the male heir of an emperor in the Qi, archaeologists told the agency. The intricate images, painted on the walls of a 15-meters long passage, will prove useful in the study of the escort customs 1500 years ago. But over a millennium had taken its toll on the frescoes, which were faded and in many areas missing whole sections. The excavation of the tomb has of course exposed the frescoes to the fresh air which could damage the crumbling images even further. Sun Jinghua, an expert from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology working on the new discoveries, said the fragile works were in need of thorough restoration. “Because small pieces of the paintings have fallen off, so we are using some things to secure them, and after experts from Hebei province have taken data we will start to take the paintings off the wall,” Sun told reporters.

Pottery figurines, bluestone tomb doors and epitaph were also discovered in the tomb, the report said. The site is part of a larger tomb complex that served the Northern Dynasties (386-581) and contains 134 tombs, mostly belonging to the royal family, stretching over roughly 15 kilometres.

The tomb was uncovered during the contraction of a stretch of the country’s controversial North-South water Diversion Project, a nation-spanning series of channels built to bring water from the wet south to the dry north.

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