Descendants Ask for Protection of Tomb of Ancient Female Politician

November 13, 2013
Editor: Sun Xi
Descendants Ask for Protection of Tomb of Ancient Female Politician
The tomb of Shangguan Wan'er (664–710), an influential female politician and poet during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690-705), was found in Xianyang, Shaanxi Province, during the process of constructing the Airport New City, according to the provincial cultural relics bureau on September 9, 2013. [news.ifeng.com]
The tomb of a female politician who lived in ancient times will be sealed off because of the construction work for the Airport New City in Xianyang, northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The tomb of Shangguan Wan'er (664–710), an influential female politician and poet who lived during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690-705), was found in Xianyang during the construction process, according to the provincial cultural relics bureau on September 9, 2013.

The tomb was found near the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport. Although it was badly damaged, and only a few burial accessories were found, archaeologists concluded that the tomb was built for Shangguan Wan'er, also known as Empress Wu's secretary, based on the inscription on the memorial tablet inside the tomb.

The discovery of the tomb and the epitaph is of great significance to research into the history of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), said Du Wenyu of Shaanxi Normal University.

The archaeological site of the tomb has been closed for cleaning and discovery work.

Shangguan Jianfang, a descendant of Shangguan Wan'er, says that they (Shangguan Wan'er's descendants) have applied to the Shaanxi Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage for protection of the tomb. If the original tomb cannot remain, they hope to conduct a symbolic ceremony and bring a few bricks and some soil from the site back to Shangguan Wan'er's original home in central China's Henan Province to be buried next to her grandfather's tomb.

"We applied for it in the name of the Shangguan Family Name Committee under the Henan Surname Culture Research Association. For over a month, we received over a hundred of calls from the descendants of Shangguan Wan'er. They are closely watching the discovery and protection of the tomb," said Shangguan Jianfang.

The descendants are also hoping to build an on-site park and have offered to raise the money for its construction.

The Shaanxi Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage said the archaeological unit has submitted a report and is discussing a proper protection plan with the construction unit. They will reply to the application as soon as there is a result.

According to the administration, the land around the tomb has been expropriated to build a highway and it is unrealistic to change the route of a highway that is already under construction.

"In these cases, sealing off the tomb is the normal procedure," said an official from the administration. "These tombs need special protection. We respect the Shangguan family's reverence for their ancestor and we are trying to come up with the best protection plan to meet the needs of all parties."

The official also stated that relics found in the archaeological discovery belong to the state.

Shangguan Wan'er has been dubbed one of the 'four most talented women' in ancient China and was hailed as a 'female prime minister' during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian.

Shangguan's grandfather and father were both important officials, but were killed because of her grandfather's opposition to Wu. Shangguan herself became a slave but later came to the empress' notice for her talent in poetry and management of state affairs. She became secretary to the empress, but was put to death in 710 for her involvement in a coup plot.

(Source: news.ifeng.com/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)

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