In the second half of 2023, the Shanxi Provincial Archaeological Research Institute, in collaboration with the Xinzhou City Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, conducted archaeological excavations in Xinfu District as part of the realignment project for National Highway 108 between Shahe and Shilingguan.

During the excavations, two Longshan culture sites and sites from the Warring States period were discovered, along with 66 tombs from the Han, Tang, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Among them was an exceptionally well-preserved Ming dynasty brick tomb on the west terrace of Hexitou village in Xinfu District.

The tomb is located 300 meters southwest of Hexitou village, on a terrace that is higher in the west and lower in the east, relatively flat, with ravines about 100 meters to the south and north.

The tomb has a “jia” (甲) shape in plan, oriented at 102°, with a length of 25 meters east to west and a width of 6.4 meters north to south, with a depth of 6.2 meters. It consists of an entrance passage, a door, a corridor, a main chamber, a rear chamber, and niches in the north and south walls.

On the north wall of the entrance passage, near the tomb’s door, there is a stone stele with the inscription Epitaph of Lord Wang Hou’an of the Ming Dynasty carved in the “zhuan” script style. The tomb door is made of stone and consists of a porch, stone slabs sealing the entrance, and stone doors.

The interior of the tomb is free of sediment, and the coffins and funerary objects are in good condition. The main chamber houses two coffins, with the southern coffin being smaller and the northern one larger.

Various funerary objects were found, such as ceramic jars, symbolic tiles, ceramic bowls, wooden furniture, candlesticks, incense burners, painted wooden figurines, as well as desk items like ink stones, brushes, and brush holders.

According to inscriptions on the epitaph and land purchase contract, the occupant of the tomb is Wang Luo, the younger third brother of Wang Zhi, a famous official in Xinzhou during the Ming dynasty.

Wang Luo died in the year Wuzi, estimated to correspond to the 16th year of the Wanli era (1588), at the age of 55 by the lunar calendar and 56 by the Western calendar.

This discovery is exceptionally rare in the Xinzhou region and even in the entire province due to the meticulous construction of the tomb, the abundance of funerary objects, and the excellent preservation of the wooden coffins and offering items.

It provides valuable physical materials for the study of tomb structure, social life, and funeral culture of the Ming dynasty in the region.

The discovery of this Ming dynasty tomb sheds light on funeral practices and elite culture during that period. The presence of wooden furniture, desk items, and offering objects suggests the importance of maintaining a refined and cultured lifestyle even in the afterlife.

Furthermore, the inscription on the epitaph praising Wang Luo’s virtues and achievements reflects the values and social expectations of the time.


Sources

Archaeological Institute of Shanxi


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