Chinese archaeologists have found colorful murals on walls inside six cliff tombs dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD).
The tombs are located on a mountain cliff in Zhongjiang County of southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The third tomb, described as the most valuable by Chinese archaeologists, looks like a luxury hotel with a 13-meter-long entry way, a 20 by 1.8 meter coffin chamber, rear chambers, a coffin platform and a niche.
The murals, painted in vivid colors including red, yellow, black, white and green, depict many themes, among them, doormen, fish, snakes chasing rats and a tomb owner drinking at a banquet. A 150-word text, hand-written in ink, tells the story of the family status and life experience of the tomb owner.
Experts have concluded, after analyzing the murals, that the owner was probably a native of Nanyang who had served as a senior official near the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was later persecuted by a eunuch and exiled to Sichuan on charges of delivering a false imperial edict. He had led 100,000 soldiers in battle and had made outstanding achievements on the battlefield.
Some archaeologists believe that the tomb owner must have been a very important official because few people led armies of 100,000 men at that time. If the existence of this individual who does not appear in history books is proven, it will constitute an important historical omission.
Lin Xiang, a professor of the History Department at Sichuan University, said, "This is the only hand-written text from the Han Dynasty that I have ever seen. Moreover, the text, penned in official style, demonstrates a strong mastery of writing techniques and use of ink."
Zhang Zhongpei, vice-president of the China Society of Archaeology, said, "They are the first group of murals painted in cliff tombs I have ever seen. They are valuable to the study of social relationships in the Han Dynasty.
(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2002)