close to the city of xi'an in northwestern china lies a vast and ancient mausoleum the burial ground of the mighty tang dynasty the tang dynasty must have been one of the most powerful empires in the world pantanesi last for more than 300 years.
And when chinese look back they considered this spirit is one of the most powerful dynasty in their history it was here in 1960 that a team of chinese archaeologists made an extraordinary discovery as soon as you discover a tomb or some other remains that are able to corroborate texts that makes.
Archaeologists epigraphers and researchers in china incredibly excited they opened one of the smaller tombs it belonged to a young princess who had lived more than twelve hundred years before what they found inside astonished them it's one of the largest tangents to discover so far they're very important.
Archaeological discoveries vital to our understanding of both life and afterlife in tang dynasty it was a treasure trove but not one of silver or gold the treasure was on the walls the first session of the mural painting depicts the official guardian starting the tomb.
And the second part of the tune is about her personal life and the last session of the mural painting that is where the coffin was found it has a creation of an afterlife by giving her the spaces that would be appropriate for her an amazing find in those chambers of death they.
Found life the terracotta army one of the wonders of ancient china thousands of warriors forces acrobats and musicians all buried in the earth to accompany the first emperor of china into the afterlife it was discovered by accident in 1974.
The terracotta army has since become a unesco world heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in modern china but just 60 miles away lies another burial ground of china's imperial past and another wonder the murals discovered in the tombs of.
Chennai mausoleum offer an unprecedented glimpse into the life during the tang dynasty a golden age in chinese history when they ruled an empire larger than that of rome the great dynasty began in the year 618 the last emperor had been assassinated china was engulfed in civil war but from.
The chaos a new ruling family arose it really started with the the family seizing power from the declining sway dynasty china has been suffered from almost 500 years civil war so soon after the tang dynasty unified china again it developed a fast.
In economic and then culturally the ruling family of the tang dynasty the lee family they were a turkic speaking aristocratic family from the northwestern regions of china the new dynasty would rule china for almost three centuries it was an era of progress and stability.
Art and literature blossomed as did science and technology and the tang capital xi'an became the greatest city on the planet today the modern metropolis of xi'an is built on the site few remnants of the tang capital remain but the great wild goose pagoda in the.
South of the city is one dating to the mid 7th century it offers a hint of xi'an's lost grandeur the original town capital would have been completely flattened at the end of the dynasty you wander around the city walls today you can still get a feel get a sense of this.
Amazing city the town capital had dozens of huge and well-sponsored temples some of the towers and pagodas being constructed would have been up to 60 or 17 meters high you know that's an amazing landmark on a skyline xi'an being the capital of the whole planet you get a lot of merchants.
And religious people and even visitors from all over the world its name meant perpetual peace but xi'an was the center of a vast empire the tang's influence stretched into modern vietnam and korea in the east and into afghanistan in the west at the empire zenith more than 50 million people lived under tang rule.
The emperors commanded armies of five hundred thousand professional troops but tang dominance in central asia was not unchallenged rebellions and incursions were a constant threat and to the west lay an even greater enemy the mighty tibetan empire for centuries the two powers jostled for.
Dominance at times they would settle their differences through diplomacy and into marriage but at other times only a military solution would do there would be cycles of invasion and occupation counter-attack and rebellion control of trade routes was fiercely contested as.
Well for mighty though the tang armies were the triumph of the dynasty was built on the flow of goods on the movement of people and the exchange of ideas don't forget that the ruling family of the tang dynasty even within their dna and their cultural history had these.
Strong ties to nomadic people and that carried on in the way that the tang dynasty itself was structured these connections and the signs of these connections became part of tang dynasty kingship so for example receiving ambassadors receiving traders from foreign countries became one way for the tang dynasty to.
As it were reflect on itself culture commerce ideas technology almost every aspect of life in tang dynasty china was connected with a broader regional cultural economy well the town dynasty acquired all these new material forms and crafts for example glass gold and.
Silver and also new religions like buddhism solutionism and manikism people luxuries goods all kinds of things were coming in and out constantly.
The tang established sea routes to persia to egypt to mesopotamia and beyond but it was by land the greatest treasures flowed along a legendary trade route to the west the silk road.
The zhen ling mausoleum in north western china is a window into another time of the 19 tombs in the complex only those of princess yong tai and four others have been opened but in the murals found within the 7th century heyday of the tang dynasty is brought to life in stunning detail and color their scenes show a wealthy diverse.
Society where customs goods and fashions of foreign lands were welcomed integrated reinterpreted and made together into something unique it was a melting pot impossible to imagine without the network of trade routes which linked tang china and the world the silk road stretched from the west of the tang capital of xi'an.
Its merchant caravan skirted the mountain ranges of central asia they threaded the valleys of afghanistan and crossed the karakum desert and on and on they went towards the caspian sea the black sea and europe beyond the silk road is a term coined by a german geographer von richtoben in the.
Late 19th century to refer to an extensive network or of nodes used for trade in essentially the medieval period sometime between third and fourth century and right up to around period of the mongol conquest 13th 14th century so about a thousand years of medieval history.
the secret role is the mainstream to make prosperity of the tang dynasty financially and culturally sigrow is actually path for communication migration and traits that are to be used back in history it's a complex.
Network of oasis towns which essentially join china with the central and western parts of asia the people who dominated the silk road are the sogdians the tang chinese the tongue state was invested hugely in the infrastructure of the silk road.
Because they wanted they valued the imports and they valued the import export business but the actual trading was dominated by central asians rather than by tang chinese themselves along the route itself.
The silk road which connected tang china to the west had its origins centuries earlier the greeks under alexander the great
had pushed east as far as india two centuries later their descendants in central asia were met by chinese embassies of the great han dynasty a chinese military presence in the.
Region followed securing the first open trade route across the continent the han coveted the horses bred further west which was stronger and faster than their native breeds chinese luxury such as silk went the other way passing from merchant to merchant across thousands of miles making many rich along the way.
But such a lucrative trade route was jealously contested every power in the region wanted its peace and opportunistic bandits were always ready to swoop on the unguarded and unprepared the han dynasty fell in the third century the roman empire 2 would soon fracture the silk road closed it was not until the tang unified china.
And expanded into central asia again in the 7th century that the direct link to europe was reopened and it would carry far more than just silk there were more than silk which were traded along the circle there also glass gold and silver it's also very important to develop of chinese cuisine including also spice and new fruits like melons.
And grapes and walnuts for the western chinese start to enjoy why made up grape because before that the chinese wine is usually made of rice or soybean many other things other than silk were moving across the silk road including things to do with medicine ideas people warfare luxuries all kinds.
Of things it's very interesting from the mural painting we discover a lot evidence about during this time china has adopted a lot cultural activity from the central asia for example the first time we see the.
Chinese startup portal this all never happened in china before probably the most important set of ideas that traveled along the silk road into china would have been buddhism there's all kinds of sutras were coming from india and triggering and stimulating new interest in this particular religion.
And faith it was a huge stimulus to the history of ideas in medieval china along with religious ideas there also came new architectural plans like buddhist pagodas into china there are also new decorative elements like the very popular pearl borders which were extensively used in town dynasty textiles.
The silk road enriched the tang dynasty in more ways than one and it made control of the empire all the more tempting a prize for the ruthless and ambitious there was none more ruthless and ambitious than the woman who rose from courtesan to the highest throne in the land one of the most extraordinary figures in chinese history.
Wu zertien she was born in 624 her family was wealthy and an early backer of the new tang regime that saw her place in the imperial court of the lesser concubine to the emperor she was 14 years old she watched she learned and she waited for her moment wizardchien started as a concubine of.
The second emperor of town dynasty emperor time but she must be a very charming woman that's why after thai emperor tai zhong died she was actually taken again into court by tai zhongsun emperor gao zhong as his county by at that time and then later she became the empress.
Unfortunately five years later emperor gauton got stroked so after that jyotien took over the power and become the empress dodger and eventually she claimed herself emperor of china she would have retained a lot of power from.
Behind the curtain as it's called but clearly didn't wish to relinquish it her husband emperor gauchiong faded away and died in 683 their son inherited the throne but he proved too independent-minded for his mother and she deposed him after just two months she sent the young man into exile and.
Installed his younger brother as her puppet in 690 she then removed him too and seized ultimate power herself she was the only female in the history of china who actually became an emperor she ran the state for more than 40 years firstly officially as an empress.
Then afterwards he claimed herself an emperor it's important to say also this is one of the great moments of flowering of chinese culture she was a great sponsor of arts and religion and so many of the religious organizations and.
Artists would have thrived and flourish under her patronage but she was ruthless and she was clearly very power hungry and also quite insecure and didn't hesitate to execute or demote or banish anyone who came up against her.
Wooz earth yen's secret police stamped out any dissent old and powerful families who might threaten her were repressed in their place she promoted those whose loyalty would be to her alone but the imperial court soon became a nest of factions vying for favor the wrong word in the wrong ear could.
Mean death and even her closest family were not safe in her rise to power it is said woozer tien killed her infant daughter to frame and discredit a rival by the time she was emperor she had lost none of that calculating brutality as her granddaughter princess yong-chai was soon to discover.
At the beginning of the eighth century china was ruled by an ageing despot woo zetian had begun life at court as a lowly concubine but through her cunning and her brutality she had seized power deposed her own children and declared a new dynasty of her own the empress was growing old however she relied more and more on her two lovers.
The chang brothers yiki and zhang zhang the changs grew powerful and made enemies among those whispering against the brothers were two of wuzethyen's grandchildren the teenagers prince yidder and princess yong tai princess yong tai was obviously said to.
Be a great beauty who if she stood next to plum blossoms the plum blossoms would look drab prince edward's name is lee chong ran he is the grandson of emperor gaozon and empress wuzza tien but when empress with zatian was in power he got himself into trouble by criticizing his grandmas.
Unusually intimate relationship with two male officers and her trust towards them she displayed what would have been regarded as very corrupt behavior by favoring her favorites with business deals and status titles elevating them essentially far beyond as it were their worth utilian discovered princess yong tai and.
Her brother and her husband talk about her private life behind her back she got very annoying their youth and family connections were no defense wooza tien's vengeance was swift yida yong tai and her husband were all sentenced to death there were different records about their.
Death so prince either supposedly was king to death but there are different stories about the death of princess young time it's not entirely clear her epitaph says she died in childbirth but it's more likely that she was poisoned and by the empress wu archaeologist and.
Also scholars have discovered her brother and also her husband would die just one day before her so this coincidence seems unlikely to happen she died in a childbirth so now most of the scholars have have agreed that she was cured by her own grandmother water team.
But woozatien's grip on power was fading despite the risks a plot was hatched to remove her favorites the hated shang brothers when she fell ill early in 705 the conspirators made their move the brothers were killed and the ailing empress forced to abdicate the son she had deposed 20 years earlier.
Reclaimed the throne woo zertien's dynasty was over old crimes were wiped away with it princess yong-tai and her brother were re-buried magnificent new tombs were built for them a ringing statement of the break with the old regime.
the tombs for a start are exceptionally large sometimes several hundred meters by several hundred meters both films share the same structure with two large tomb chambers underneath a truncated mound above ground and these trim.
Chambers were linked with a short corridor and they were approached by a sloping tomb passage with a
ground level opening remember we're in a world of sanctuary laws here where according to your status on the social hierarchy that determines what kind of luxury you can be and must.
Be afforded for everything in life and in death and princess yong tai was treated with great honours similar to that of an empress grand tombs of princess yong tai and her brother were sealed up in the year 705 but as the decades and centuries passed the ways in were forgotten.
All of these tombs are basically all marked by a very grand spirit way flanked by large stone statues which lead to a massive two mount or actual mountain there would originally have been guards and guardians and keepers living on site but once a dynasty has fallen.
There's no reason for that and they gradually you know would have melded into the into the landscape it can be very difficult to actually locate where exactly the two chambers are either underground underneath a big grave mound or within a big mountain so if you see the big mound there but you still don't know from where you dig into.
And to locate the tomb chambers where everything is buried the majority of the tang tung was rediscovered soon after the cultural revolution china start to open to the outside wall so they need more accommodation hotel to accommodate the visitors so they have a huge construction work everywhere in.
China and this is the main period a lot of tangtong has been discovered archaeologists began the first scientific excavations of the chen ling mausoleum in the 1960s the teenage prince and princess would have been buried with a treasury of gold silver and jade.
But that was nowhere to be found in their tombs it's been looted and lost in the many centuries since the tombs of the chennai area were probably looted by the end of the tang dynasty or if not shortly afterwards i think most of the stories are that it was probably soldiery or bandits who.
Would have done the looting looters will only be able to take what is portable they probably couldn't have taken very heavy objects like heavy sarcophaguses or very heavy bells so they would have gone for objects of value things made for example of silver all objects made of precious materials.
Like golden silver or jade were taken so for example in the tomb of prince zhang huai there was a jade book with gilded inscription which indicates his identity so that jade's book was broken down into pieces and took and taken away and only fragments remained in the tomb but the thieves were less interested in.
Pottery hundreds of ceramic figures were left in princess young chai's tomb alone and there was another thing the raiders did not steal the stunning frescoes which lined the tomb walls you have recreations of court scenery of the capital scenery and of massive processions and events.
The first section of the mural painting depicts the official guardian guarding the tomb and the second part of the tune is about her personal life and the last session of the mural painting that is where the coffin was found what gets painted in the tombs are all the things that the occupant is going to.
Need in the afterlife so if that means for example that they must be accompanied by a dozen beautiful ladies in waiting then they must be painted there if it also means that they must have musicians and dancers bodyguards if they must be able to witness great military parades and pageants if they.
Must live in fantastic buildings and be fed marvelous food the wherewithal must all be there we don't know any names of those craftsmen who created the mural paintings within the tombs and also the ceramic figures despite that their works are very fine high quality as they say a picture is worth a.
Thousand words the content of the images gives us a way to imagine all kinds of everyday scenes that we would never have otherwise been able to conceive of only few of the tongue that is dependent have survived they were originally painted in silk so this discovery of the mural painting help us to understand their daily life.
What's interesting about the tongue period and these murals is that we're not just looking at an introspective china we're looking at china that is fully integrated into a massive regional economy across eurasia which means that there would have been ambassadors and traders and merchants and emissaries and all sorts of other.
People in the capital at the time and of course they find their way into these murals as well on the walls of the chen ling tombs we see persian wine glasses and foreign dignitaries we see musicians and instruments from far off lands we see cheetahs and camels and other exotic.
Beasts we see all the world coming to tang china to trade to pay tribute to serve and to make a new life and we see the change in women's status too society definitely became more tolerant and vibrant with all the nomadic.
Fashions coming in and there was definitely much less social segregation of women the women in the town tennis they enjoy much higher social status in the society than any period in chinese history they start to dress up and imitate the european style or even the fashion from the central asia.
In many ways in their makeup in their dress and even their social life we're still in the medieval period it is still a patriarchal system the place of women is to correspond to men to be demure and not to come out from behind the curtain but that said.
Women could ride horses women might even have played polo they could certainly get out and about aristocratic women that is i imagine that in a broader historical scheme their status was considerably higher and they had more freedom especially than they did in the latter half of the of the dynastic period.
But this outward looking society would not last forever even as tang china reached its zenith there were forces at large in the empire which would tear the dynasty apart by the middle of the 8th century tang china was at the peak of the golden age.
Wu zertien's divisive reign was over under the rule of her grandson emperor xian zhang china enjoyed decades of political stability peace and prosperity the tang dynasty must have been one of the most powerful empires in the world if not the most powerful in the medieval period it had a much.
Larger population and it had a far greater trading status than compared to any other state of the time this very open era in china from all the cultural and population exchange came out into a full bloom in the town dynasty the tombs themselves are a great mark of you know the scale of the tombs you know.
Several hundred meters by several hundred meters it's an indication of the wealth the luxury the power and what the status of china was among the regional powers that traded with it that that recognized it in december 755 however disaster struck and luchan was a powerful general in the tang army.
And a favorite of the emperor but he had a bitter rivalry with the emperor's chief minister after one provocation too many and luchan rebelled civil war beckoned in china with the mighty northern garrisons under his command and luchan swept southwards within months his armies had captured the great city of puyang.
There he declared himself the first emperor of a new dynasty the yan he marched onwards to changhan the emperor fled the city fell and luchan was unable to secure the whole country indeed he could not even rule his own family early in 757 he was murdered by his son.
He in turn was killed by a loyalist to the dead general the new yan dynasty was imploding the rebellion failed but for the tang victory came at a cost the economy was in tatters thousands upon thousands had died and more had been forced to flee their homes the capital chang han had been looted.
The central bureaucracy there was decimated the glue as it were that was holding the state together started to come
apart and you start to get militarism you start to get rebellions you start to get independent governors and that's a recipe for a disaster for a for a.
Unified centralized state a further series of agrarian rebellions finally turned down a dynasty in the beginning of 10th century the tang dynasty never recovered from the 756 unluchan rebellion even though in name it carried on right up until 907.
As the power and authority of the tang withered so did their control over the western regions their old rivals the tibetan empire swooped in the silk road which had brought the tang such prosperity was closed the ninth century then saw a series of natural disasters and another.
Devastating uprising against imperial authority this time there would be no recovery in 907 the last tang emperor was forced from the throne after ruling china for almost 300 years the great dynasty was over china entered a new age of political upheaval as the once unified state.
Collapsed into rival kingdoms but the triumphs of the tang dynasty were not forgotten and though their reign ended more than 1100 years ago the legacy of tang china can still be felt today the impact on chinese history has been immense they defined many of the institutions.
And institutional practices that come to help us identify what their culture is i think the child nancy really has left a lasting legacies in chinese culture it's renowned for its literature and its ceramics also it is the when wood block printing started in china so these are.
All the lasting legacies in chinese material culture which is still very important in our daily life if you take for example something like the civil service examination system for recruitment of officials to government you know that was founded in the han dynasty but it really only became a meritocracy in the.
Tang dynasty and towards the middle towards the end of the tang dynasty you start to get men coming into government who are often from obscure families but are brilliant and a mechanism was found within the system to enable them to rise to the top and to become advisors to government so these kinds of institutional frameworks are.
Hugely important not to mention things also like calligraphy in the history of calligraphy essentially by the early tang dynasty the modern script which everyone writes today was formed they still talk about a sticker route they still want to revise the circle route so you can see the new president.
Xi jinping he emphasized so-called one bed one row this is one to echo their golden period of thick rule and when chinese look back they consider this spirit is one of the most powerful dynasty in their history stunning murals discovered in the tombs of princess yongtai and prince hede have.
Opened our eyes to the wonders of the golden age but the earth may harbor more secrets still many of the tombs of the chen ling mausoleum have not been excavated even greater treasures may yet come to light it's a large tomb complex with the.
Larger tombs for emperors and empresses and smaller what are called satellite tombs for their siblings offspring or for meritorious officials or generals or people of that kind we know the imperial line we know the names of a lot of the the royals there will certainly be tombs that have not been.
Discovered the main tomb in the chanting mausoleum the tomb of the empress wizardian and emperor gaozong were still unexcavated it's also probably the only intact royal tomb that remain in the mausoleum i'm sure there are still plenty of time us waiting to be.
Discovered because during that time apart from the royal tombs has been found in the capital xi'an there are still some high ranking in the future they have been buried in different parts of china and these tombs are still waiting to be discovered we will probably expect to see a lot.
More fascinating mural paintings a lot more valuable items for example gold and silver in these tombs and also maybe very prominent artistic work like calligraphy work there was still the legend that a divine piece of calligraphic work by a eastern jean calligrapher wang xichu was in one.
Of these imperial tombs of the town dynasties i think the chinese government sensibly has a policy of not biting off more than it can chew and of just dealing one by one with the major tubes which require a huge amount of archaeological resource and effort to excavate and then to report upon so i think you know take they should take.
Their time and do it methodically and sensibly the tang tombs already excavated require constant care 97 of their delicate murals have been removed to the changsy history museum in xi'an there the startling images of the past.
Preserved so long underground can be safeguarded for generations to come the murals that we have from the tiny imperial tombs there's really nothing like it in scale or ambition but one of the reasons why people marvel at those tongue imperial murals is obviously that they can.
Use them as a way to try and imagine what was life like at a court there's so many aspects there's the fashion there's uh the internationalism the cosmopolitanism the wealth and luxury the pointers towards architecture there's so many aspects of life that are brought to life by these murals what was.
It like to be a fly on the wall at the court of the princess we really wouldn't have very much idea without these amazing tang dynasty imperial murals it will be decades at least before the remaining tombs of the tang dynasty are opened but the murals already revealed have transformed how we picture tang china.
They have shown us what the history books can only tell us that this was a cosmopolitan society connected to the world and a military superpower unrivaled in its age and though the murals may have faded and their paints cracked they have preserved something more precious than all the treasures that once filled those silent.
Tombs they preserve the spark of life so you