Category: michael-kan - Part 2

Is China’s Cao Cao Tomb Discovery Genuine?

The recent discovery of Cao Caos tomb has sparked heated debates in the Chinese media over whether the find is genuine or not. The tomb, discovered in Chinas Henan province, is believed to belong to Cao Cao, a legendary Chinese warlord who lived about 1,800 years ago.

At the end of last year, Chinese archaeologists announced the find to the public. The strongest evidence they point to includes inscriptions on artifacts found at the site, as well as a recovered corpse whose time of death closely matches with when Cao Cao is recorded to have died.

Liu Qingzhu, a Chinese archaeologist with the countrys Institute of archaeology, said in a past interview with Heritage Key, Looking at all this evidence, one can say that the tomb has to belong to Cao Cao.

Renowned for his role in the Three Kingdoms period (184 to 280 AD), Cao Cao is a popular figure in Chinese culture, having been featured in books, TV shows and movies. News of the discovery became a hot topic in the country. But experts, as well as the country’s populace, were quick to express doubts about the find, causing a media uproar. Here are some of the concerns.

Questions About the Evidence

Many of the inscriptions found on the artifacts at the site mention the King Wu of Wei. Archaeologists involved with the find believe this title refers to Cao Cao, who ruled over the Kingdom of Wei in the early 3rd century AD.

The tomb, however, contains no mention of the name Cao Cao, which has left people questioning the find. Some scholars have argued against the archaeological evidence, saying the tomb does not match what was described in the historical records. Others are convinced Cao Caos tomb is located elsewhere such as in Bozhou, a city in Anhui Province, where the leader was born.

Fake Artifacts

One of the prominent skeptics has been Ma Weidu, a famous antique collector. Even though archaeologists spent close to a year excavating the tomb, Ma wrote in his blog and said in interviews that the artifacts used to prove the tombs connection to Cao Cao could have been created as replicas. He points out that archaeologists learned about the tomb after authorities apprehended looters, who had already robbed the site before.

While in the last decade the country has spent a great deal of effort in fighting the tomb raiding culture, many looters have stopped looting, and instead turned to creating fakes, which have tricked people looking for bargains and even experts, Ma wrote in his blog.

Ulterior Motives

Netizens in China have also suggested that the discovery may have been motivated by money. They cite how the local government in Henan province is already seeking to turn the tomb into a tourist attraction. Local news reports have mentioned that the tomb could raise a substantial income for the province.

Lack of DNA Testing

To put the issue to rest, people have called for DNA tests to prove whether the corpse found in the tomb is in fact the deceased warlord. But experts have said, given the conditions of the recovered remains, it would be difficult to conduct a DNA test. At the same time, there is a doubt as to whether it would be possible to find a sample from someone who is descended from Cao Cao.

An ongoing online poll at, the countrys largest information portal, currently shows that about 60 percent of the poll takers do not believe the tomb belongs to Cao Cao.

One Chinese blog wrote of the controversy: “We can’t believe the experts, we can’t believe the media, we can’t believe the government. In this day and age, we don’t know what we can believe.”

Faced with the mounting skepticism, archaeologists tried to address the concerns this past week during seminars sponsored by Chinas Institute of Archaeology.

The biggest news to come forth was when Wang Wei, director of the institute, said to the media that the institiute could not say with absolute certainity that the tomb belonged to Cao Cao.

Wang said in local news reports, that while on a preliminary level the instititue believes that the tomb is Cao Cao’s, This is not our final conclusion. Currently we cannot declare it with total confirmation.”

Still, archaeologists involved with the discovery are continuing to make the case that tomb is the warlord’s final resting place. Some of the additional evidence includes the size and style of the tomb, which experts say adhere to the standards of that era. They also add that none of the artifacts excavated from the tomb show any evidence of being fabricated.

“The tomb belongs to Cao Cao,” Liu said in an interview with Heritage Key this week. “It’s not a matter of if we are 70 percent sure, or a 100 percent sure. It is Cao Cao’s tomb.”

This was just a small academic topic that’s suddenly become a major societal issue

The discovered tomb is 740 square meters in size and archaeologists believe its scale to be fit for a king. More than 250 artifacts, made up of gold, silver, jade, as well as stone tablets were found belonging to the tomb. Along with a male corpse that died at around the age of 60, archaeologists also uncovered the remains of two women in the tomb, one aged in her 50s, the other in her 20s at the time of death.

Liu said he believes part of the reason why skepticism about the discovery is so high is that many people rarely come in contact with archaeology and lack the knowledge about how the field operates. With Cao Cao being such a popular figure, people want to understand more, but are confused when they hear conflicting points of view, he said.

“This was just a small academic topic that’s suddenly become a major societal issue,” Liu added.

Archaeologists will continue their excavation work on the discovery. In the meantime, the institute recently named the Cao Cao find as one of their top discoveries in 2009.

Tomb of famous Chinese warlord Cao Cao found

Archaeologists believe they may have found the remains of Cao Cao, a Chinese warlord renowned for his role during Chinas Three Kingdoms period.

This past weekend Chinese archaeologists announced the find, saying they had discovered the ancient rulers tomb in Chinas Henan Province, near Anyang.

Cao Cao, who lived from 155 to 220 AD, is a major historical figure in China. Both a military general and a poet, he established himself as a king of his own state while fighting to unite the country under his rule. Cao Caos life was later romanticized in Chinese literature, with him being cast as a cruel tyrant.

The discovery of the tomb includes the remains of three bodies and numerous artifacts. Liu Qingzhu, an archaeologist in Beijing, said in an interview that there were four main reasons why experts believe the tomb likely belongs to Cao Cao.

  • Location: The tomb is found near the former capital of the Kingdom of Wei, which Cao Cao founded and ruled over.
  • Built for a king: The scale of the tomb matches what a king of that time would be buried in. The tomb is also built in the same styles used by Cao Caos kingdom.
  • Inscriptions: Dozens of artifacts within the tomb are inscribed with lettering that indicates it belonged to the king of Wei. A pillow made out of rock carries the inscription: “The King Wu of Wei often uses this comfort neck stone.”
  • Bones: Of the three bodies found in the tomb, one is a male that is aged to in his 60’s. This corresponds with historical records which say Cao Cao died when he was 65.

“Looking at all this evidence, one can say that the tomb has to belong to Cao Cao,” Liu said.

Excavations at the tomb began last December. But authorities didnt become aware of it until they seized looters who were found carrying relics belonging to the site.

The tomb itself is 740 square meters in size, with a 40 meter passage that leads down to the chamber. The two other bodies found in the tomb are both women, one aged in her 50s, the other in her early to mid 20s. The older woman is thought to be one of Cao Caos wives, while the younger is believed to be her escort or a possible concubine.

Even as the tomb had already been looted, archaeologists have found more than 250 artifacts, including gold, silver, jade, as well as stone tablets.

The recent archaeology find will no doubt reveal more about Cao Cao, who has suffered from a bad reputation in China. One of the countrys most famous historical novels “Romance of The Three Kingdoms” depicts him as a villain. Ancient records, however, describe him in a more positive light, portraying him as a strong ruler.

Nevertheless, Cao Cao has become a popular character in Chinese culture, being featured in the countrys opera, as well as TV shows and movies. He is also a character in a popular Japanese video game series set during the Three Kingdoms period.

Shaolin Temple to Float on Chinese Stock Market

Stock holders might soon be able to invest in Shaolin monks if reports of a new business venture in China are true. According to media outlets, the country’s famed Shaolin Temple, renowned for its kungfu, will be listed on China’s or Hong Kong’s stock market in 2011. The government entity that manages the 1,500 year-old temple was reported to have agreed on a joint venture with China Travel Service, a state-run tourism agency.

The joint venture is meant to promote tourism of the temple and the surrounding area. By listing the shares on the stock market, the venture could raise up to 1 billion Chinese yuan, or $146 million in US dollars.

ShaolinTemple, located in Dengfeng, is widely-considered to be the birthplace of Chinese martial art kung fu. The Buddhist temple is most well-known for being featured in martial-arts films displaying the Shaolin tradition of kung fu.

Another news report, however, cites the local government denying that the Shaolin Temple would be a part of the joint venture. The report added that only negotiations had been made with no formal contract signed.

At the same time, Qian Daliang, an often times spokesman for Shaolin Temple’s management, was also reported as saying: “We are against being listed and this attitude will never change.”

Nevertheless, the reports of the potential stock market listing have drawn concern from netizens. One article wrote: “The listing of ShaolinTemple on the stock market in 2011 means that from today on Shaolin Temple won’t be the public religious center it was. Instead it’ll be doing pure business.”

But this hasn’t been the first time the temple’s been criticized for selling out. The abbot Shi Yongxin has been called “CEO monk” for pursuing business projects, like online sales, kung-fu shows, and even serving as executive producer on films that focus on the temple. Shi has gained controversy for being given a luxury car as a gift, and for allegedly buying an expensive robe, all of which goes against the image of a frugal monk. Recently, Muay Thai kick boxers from Thailand even decided to challenge the monks at ShaolinTemple, saying they wanted to knock down Shi. (The temple denied their request for a challenge.)

In his defense,Shi has said he is only working to promote the Shaolin Temple and ensure that it remains prosperous. Others have noted that conditions at the temple were run-down and were in need renovations before Shi became abbot.

British Museum to Face Questions in China’s Hunt for Looted Summer Palace Relics


In what looks like a massive relic hunt, China plans on sending experts across the world to find and catalogue artifacts that were looted from a historic summer palace in the second Opium War. Announced earlier this week, the project will involve a team of experts traveling to museums, libraries, and private collections in such countries as the United States, Britain, France, Japan – including the British Museum.

The aim is to find out which artifacts were taken from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace when British and French troops sacked it in 1860, during the Second Opium war. According to rough estimates, 1.5 million artifacts from the palace are now stored in more than 2,000 museums in 47 countries, said Chen Mingjie, director of the palaces management office in an interview to the state press, China Daily.

The team of experts will start with their visits next year. But their main goal will not be repatriation of the items, Chen added, but to identify and document what relics were looted from the palace.

We have clarified that this is an attempt to document rather than to seek a return of those relics,” he said. even though we do hope some previously unknown relics might surface and some might be returned to our country during our tracing effort.”

One of the museums Chen identified as a place still storing items from the summer palace is the British Museum in London, which has a long history of disputes over repatriation of its artefacts, including the Elgin Marbles, Knissos Lion, the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chessmen, and, most recently, artefacts from Iran.

Esme Wilson, a spokeswoman for the museum, said in an email that China had yet to contact them about this matter. But she added, We understand it is to do with documentation and archiving, and we would be happy to have discussions if contacted.

While China begins preparing its search for the relics, the team of experts will likely confront many difficulties said James Hevia, a professor at the University of Chicago, who specializes on Chinese history and imperialism.

Hevia called it an almost impossible task, saying that too many of these artifacts were scattered across the world, where some were then circulated on auction markets or put into private hands. Over time their exact origins can become unknown, even when they come into the care of museums, he added.

While I understand the reason why Chinese scholars might want to find all the relics, I do not think that they are fully aware of how difficult a task this will be, Hevia said.

The news comes as the destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing recently passed its 149th anniversary. The event is still a sensitive topic in China. Ruins make up of what is left of the palace, and are meant to serve as a reminder of the countrys past humiliation. Earlier this year, China condemned an auction that put up two bronze statues for sale that had been originally taken from the Old Summer Palace.

Iron Age Settlements Discovered at Jaffna

Three ancient settlements, dating back at least 2,000 years ago, have been found on Jaffna Peninsula, an area on the northern tip of Sri Lanka. The settlements were discovered three weeks ago said Dr. Senarath Disanayake, the director general for the countrys archaeology department. Together, the sites cover a piece of barren land about 5 square kilometers.

So far, only the black and red ware pottery found on the surface of the site has been studied. Disanayake said the artifacts date back to the Iron Age, putting the settlements roughly around 900 BC and up to the 1st century AD.

There are not a lot of sites like these in Jaffna, Disanayake said, stressing their importance. These settlement sites are very rare.

As for who built the settlements, the archaeology department wont know until more thorough excavations begin some time next year. Dissanayake said for these kinds of sites, normally a few houses are found.

The find comes as the Sri Lankan Civil War has recently ended. The country’s archaeology department has been working to identify and preserve archaeological sites around Jaffna city, and on the peninsula. Some of the major sites include Jaffna fortress, an old colonial building, as well as the Kadurugoda Buddhist temples.

Are Beardless Terracotta Warriors Evidence of Teenage Soldiers in Qin Empire?

The Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an

Although each of the Terracotta warriors was sculpted to be unique, one common physical trait they all share is a beard. But a new discovery has found that a handful of statues bear no facial hair, suggesting that the Terracotta army had teenaged soldiers enlisted in its ranks.

The Terracotta Army was built at the behest of China’s first emperor more than 2,000 years ago, when beards were a must for all adult males. To have one was a matter of respect, and one way of dealing with criminals at the time was cutting off their beards as a form of punishment.

So to find statues beardless likely indicates that they were of a young age said Yuan Zhongyi, an honorary curator of the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors.

In a news article Yuan said, “Some warriors have no beards, but for ancient Chinese, facial hair was part of the culture, so those warriors could be considered to represent soldiers under 17 years old.”

During the rule of the first emperor, the military age for males was 17, and child soldiers were not common. But there is some evidence in historical documents that say males older than 15 were enlisted in a battle to defeat the Zhao kingdom.

More than 1,000 Terracotta warriors have been discovered. But of those, less than 10 have faces sculpted without beards. The find was presented during a 35th anniversary commemoration of the Terracotta Army’s discovery near Xi’an, China.

Chow Yun-Fat to Hit the Big Screen as Confucius

ConfuciusThis week China celebrated the 2,560 birthday of Confucius. And soon, the famous philosopher will also have his own film.

Titled Confucius, the movie will star Chow Yun-Fat as the famed Chinese thinker. Last month, a trailer for the film was released, with the movie set to premiere early next year.

Living from 551 to 479 BC, Confucius is renowned for his philosophies on morality and values. These ideas have shaped Chinese society and governance through the millennia, while also influencing other countries across Asia.

News articles, however, have noted a recent resurgence of the scholar in China, after his philosophies became unpopular in the country. During the 20th century, Confucianism was often denounced in China as backward and feudal.

But in recent years, his ideas have once again resurfaced in the countrys mainstream. New books, government sponsored events, and even a cartoon show are popularizing his teachings.

With Confucianism back in style, the new film comes at an appropriate time. But the movie hasnt been without controversy, with worries expressed over the casting of Chow Yun-Fat in the role of Confucius.

Chow has gained famed in Asia mainly for his Hong Kong action films, with a few of his most acclaimed roles playing gun-toting criminals. This is contrary to the scholarly-like image Confucius often exudes. Some also fear that Chows Mandarin language skills arent good enough for role, and that the film will feature too much action.

But according to the Chinese press, descendents of Confucius said they approved of Chow being cast in the movie after viewing the trailer for the film. Sage-like said one article describing how the descendents viewed Chow Yun-Fats portrayal of their ancient ancestor.

Readers can judge for themselves by checking out trailer here or here.

Oracle Bones on Display in Beijing National Library

Oracle bone 1a

One of the largest oracle bones ever found will be feature in a rare exhibition of the bones at the National Library of China in Beijing.

Long before satellite imaging and Doppler radar came along, using a cow bone was once seen as a dependable way to predict the weather.

More than 3,000 years ago, kings in China relied on such animal bones to foretell future events. Through the ages, fragments of these oracle bones have survived, offering archaeologists early glimpses into the countrys history, as well as its writing system.

Storing about a quarter of the discovered oracle bones is the National Library of China in Beijing. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding, the library is giving the public a rare look at some of its most treasured items, including its oracle bone collection.

One of the largest oracle bones ever excavated will be included in the display. Looking like a paddle made out of stone, the bone is 43.5 by 24 cm in size, and comes from the shoulder blade of an ox.

As for its prophecy, the bone had predicted the coming of 11 days of nonstop rain

Like many oracle bones, it dates back to the Shang Dynasty. From 1600 to 1046 BC, the dynasty of ancient kings ruled the northeastern region of what is now modern day China. During that period, the shoulder blade bones of oxen and the shells of turtles were often used as mediums to carry out divinations. To do so, the bones were heated, causing them to crack. These cracks could then be interpreted to foresee the outcome of events related to the weather, sickness, agriculture and more.

The large ox bone on display at the exhibit shows a total of 218 Chinese characters inscribed on both its front and backside. In terms of oracles bones made from shoulder bones, the museum claims it to be the largest and most complete so far discovered.

The bone is dated to the period the Wu Yi and Wen Ding kings (1147-1102 BC). As for its prophecy, the bone had recorded the coming of 11 days of nonstop rain.

Oracle bone 2

Six other oracle bones are also on display at the librarys exhibition. The information they reveal range from military affairs to a sacrifice meant for a Shang dynasty king and queen. Etched across their surfaces and still visible are early forms of Chinese writing, which bares little resemblance to their more modern forebears.

In total, the library has collected 35,651 oracle bone pieces, making it the worlds largest repository for them. Dozens of religious texts written more than 1,000 years ago, along with historical maps, rare books and writings from Chinas different ethnic groups can also be seen at the exhibit.

But the exhibition wont last long, with its final day on October 7th. Library officials cant say when theyll display these historical artifacts again, only that its rare for it to happen.

Oracle bone enthusiasts, however, can view the librarys entire collection online here. (Website is in Chinese).

Ancient Porcelain Found in Submerged Chinese Vessel

Pulled from the sea more than two decades ago, archaeologists are still pulling treasure from the submerged confines of an ancient Chinese merchant ship. According to media reports, more than 200 porcelain artifacts were recently discovered from Nanhai One, a Song Dynasty vessel (960-1279) that sunk more than 800 years ago.

In a 40-day trial excavation, which ended in September, archaeologists uncovered the artifacts, helping to confirm that the ship was indeed a merchant vessel. During the excavation, archaeologists also found that parts of the ships cabin and deck had been well-preserved.

The vessel was originally found in 1987 off the southern coast of China, near the Guangdong province. (Nanhai means southern sea in Chinese.). In terms of size, the ship is 30.4 meters long, and 9.8 meters wide, with a weight of 5,000 tons.

It’s one of the oldest and biggest vessels found sunk in Chinese waters, and the ship is also loaded with ancient relics from the past. Archaeologists have estimated a total booty reaching up to around 60,000 to 80,000 relics.

Among the items found in the recent excavation, the porcelain is from the Fujian, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces. It includes bowl, plates and pots. Already 4,000 pieces of gold, silver and porcelain and 6,000 copper coins were recovered from the ship.

Aside from the relics it carries inside, Nanhai One also provides evidence of how ancient China interacted with the rest of the world through maritime trade. In what has been called the marine silk road, trade routes were said to have been established between China and such continents as Europe and Africa during this period according to Chinese history books.

More artifacts will no doubt be found within the ship as more excavations are planned in the future. Nanhai One is currently housed in the Marine Silk Museum () in Yangjiang City, Guangzhou province. The vessel has been kept underwater in the museums Crystal Palace, a glass pool that simulates the conditions the vessel was originally found in.

Hidden Xi’an: Must-see Sites off the Tourist Trail

The famous Terracotta Warriors aren't the only highlight in Xi'an! Image Credit - Richard FisherCome to Xian, and youll no doubt head straight to see the citys famous Terracotta Warriors exhibit, or the mausoleum of Chinas first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. You might make the trip out to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda or Maoling Mausoleum, and check out a couple of the museums, such as the Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an Banpo Museum and the Xian Museum.

But theres a lot more to Xian than these, admittedly stunning, sites. The ancient capital also has a stash of hidden treasures. Heres a handful of my favourites.

Tomb of the Second Emperor

Whether or not this place truly existed is still unknown. But according to legend, Xian was once the site for perhaps the largest palace ever conceived by man.

So much has been said of China and its first emperor Qin Shi Huang . But what about his immediate successor?

Historical records say little about Chinas second emperor, Qin Er Shi . Following his fathers death, the young emperor ruled for a mere three years from 210 to 207 BC before committing suicide. Shortly thereafter, the Qin dynasty collapsed.

Although his reign seems like only a footnote to history, the tomb of this obscure emperor can still be found in Xian.

The site is just south of the Qujiang Pool in Xians Tang Paradise Park. A road leads up to the tomb, which is surrounded by an old-style Chinese courtyard home.

The place is small, and has largely been untouched by the citys modernization. Untamed trees and brush cover much of the area, with the foo-lion statues at the entrance nothing but slabs of worn marble rock. At the tomb are a few dusty exhibits detailing the history of the emperor, as well as the actual grave site.

Local caretakers, however, have said that plans are in place to begin renovating the area soon.

Temple of the Eight Immortals

Temple of the Eight Immortals. Image Credit - yewenyiLocated not far from the eastern side of the inner city wall is Xians largest Taoist temple. Ba Xian An, or the Temple of the Eight Immortals, was built in Chinas Song Dynasty (960 to 1279 A.D.) and has been continually expanded on throughout the centuries.

In Taoism, the Eight Immortals are major figures that symbolize prosperity, and have been commonly featured in Chinese traditional art. This temple is dedicated to them. Legend has it that the place was built after a Song dynasty scholar met the Eight Immortals.

Many statues of the immortals along with engraved Taoist artworks can be found at the well-preserved temple. Originally, it was built on the ruins to a Tang dynasty palace. Other dynasties such as the Yuan, Ming and Qing have also made contributions to the temple, with many of the Qing buildings now taking up most of the site.

The temple can be best found by exiting from one of the inner citys gates at Dong Xin Street or . Head east; after about three blocks, the temple will be on your left.

Da Xing Shan Temple

Daxing Shan Temple - the first Vajrayana temple in China. Image Credit - Lyle VincentAnother place of religious importance in Xian is the Daxing Shan temple, located in the south of the city. This Buddhist temple is the citys oldest, having been built in the Western Jin Dynasty period (265 to 316 A.D.)

Its significance dates back to the Tang dynasty when Buddhist monks from India came to the temple. There they worked to translate and promulgate Buddhist texts, with the place eventually becoming a major center for Buddhist culture. Because of its role, the temple has been considered a birthplace for Chinese Buddhism.

However, in the later Tang dynasty, the temple was desecrated during the reign of the emperor Wuzong, who persecuted the Buddhist religion. Since that period renovations have been made off and on to the temple, some of the most prominent additions coming during the Qing dynasty and the last several decades.

The temple itself is separated into different halls that stretch across a vast courtyard. Visitors can find it along Changan street heading south, down next to the cross street at Xing Shan Temple West road.

Epang Palace

Whether or not this place truly existed is still unknown. But according to legend, Xian was once the site for perhaps the largest palace ever conceived by man.

In 212 BC, Chinas first emperor ordered the palaces construction, making it so large that it had its own climate. Luxuries filled its confines, with beautiful women and treasures abound. But according to historical records, during the decline of the Qin dynasty, the palace was burned to the ground in a revolt.

To unravel the mystery, archeologists have worked on digging up ruins of the palace in sites just west of Xian. Discovered evidence suggests that the palace was never completed, and that it was not burned down as once thought.

The site of the actual palace can be found about 13 km west from the center of the city. An exhibit of the ruins is being built and is planned to be opened in 2010. A replica of the palace, completed in 2000, is nearby and has now become a tourist attraction in the city.