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Southern Song Dynasty cemetery discovered in Zhejiang


From November to December 2016 the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of cultural relics and Archaeology, together with the Archaeological Department of Keqiao District Cultural Development Center, discovered a large-scale and high-class cemetery of Southern Song Dynasty - the Lanruosi Cemetery. Between February to December, 2017, the archaeological team officially began excavation, which determined the age and distribution of the cemetery. The Lanruosi Cemetery is some 12,000 square metres in area and dates to the late Southern Song Dynasty, and was in use no later than the early Yuan Dynasty period.

Southern Song Dynasty cemetery discovered in Zhejiang
Aerial view of the site [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy]
The selection of the cemetery’s location was determined the Fengshui Concept (known as Chinese geomancy) of the Southern Song Dynasty. It faced south and had at least 4 large platform steps. The cemetery followed the terrain: the eastern side was wide while the western side was narrow. Some subsidiary buildings were located on the wide eastern side. The cemetery was divided into two sections: the first-stepped platform formed the 'Upper Zone'; and the second to the fourth stepped platforms comprised the 'Lower Zone'.

Southern Song Dynasty cemetery discovered in Zhejiang
The Palace hall  [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy]
The first stepped platform comprised a subsidiary building surrounded by stone walls, a tomb passage and gateways. The north-south orientated tomb passage was walled up, forming a closed region. The base of the stone wall was well preserved, while the buildings within had almost completely collapsed.

Only two gateways were relatively well-preserved, one in the southeast corner and another on the south end, as well as a paved stone area on the comer of the north-south orientated tomb passage way which was likely used for ritual ceremonies and also served as the residence of the tomb keepers of the Southern Song Dynasty Emperor’s Mausoleum.

Southern Song Dynasty cemetery discovered in Zhejiang
The tomb during excavation [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy]
The second to the third stepped platforms of the 'Upper Zone' formed the building’s core zone. In this area, were found the south-north orientated tomb passage, multiple stepping stones, a stone-built wall, a side building, a palace hall (in the shape of character “凸”), courtyard, sacrifice altar, and drainage system.

The palace gate on the second platform led to the palace hall on the third platform, a large building some 30 metres wide comprising seven rooms, which is the largest single building of the Southern Song Dynasty discovered to date.

Southern Song Dynasty cemetery discovered in Zhejiang
Decorative building elements found in Lanruosi [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy]
The terrain between the third and fourth platforms is steep and the cemetery area was therefore designed as five small platforms evenly spaced out, with an altar and tomb passage in the middle of each. The fourth platform was the main part of the enclosure, and consisted of worshipping altar, four watchtowers, the main tomb chamber and drainage system.

The layout is typical of a royal cemetery, though it lacks the characteristic round grave mounds. The main chamber housed different coffin pits, consisting of two east-west parallel rectangle chambers, the walls of which were built with bricks and stones, capped with large stone slabs. The tomb chamber had been looted on several occasions during the Song and Yuan Dynasty periods.

Southern Song Dynasty cemetery discovered in Zhejiang
Decorative building elements found in Lanruosi [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy]
The investigation also revealed the ruins of a temple about 150 metres away from the east side of the cemetery.

The Lanruosi cemetery was built during the later period of South Song Dynasty and was only 6 kilometres away from Six Mausoleums of Song Dynasty, suggesting that it was intimately related with the royal cemeteries.

Source: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy [July 17, 2018]

TANN

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