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Mysterious 1,000-Year-Old Imperial Tomb Discovered Under Elementary School in China

Construction workers at an elementary school in school in China thought they were renovating the school’s sports field. Instead they ended up up unearthing a mysterious 1,000-year-old tomb filled with pottery and art from the Tang dynasty of imperial China.

The tomb was discovered underneath Xiaojingyu Elementary School in the city of Taiyuan. Workers were setting new foundations for structures in the sports field when they accidentally punched through the ceiling of the 1,000 year old tomb. Which probably came as a decent surprise.  The tomb is believed to be one of several rooms in a larger underground complex.

Inscriptions on in the mysterious tomb indicate that it belonged to someone of influence, but the exact identity of the eternal resident is still unknown. Archaeologists who have examined the ornate underground tomb say that it most likely dates back to the rule of the Tang dynasty, a golden age and high point of imperial China, which lasted from  618 to 907 AD.

According to the Daily Mail, a “cultural expert” told local media that the artwork bears the very specific style of a roughly 50-year period known as Sheng Tang, when the Tang dynasty flourished between 713 and 766 AD.

Tang dynasty mural

Mural from the Tang dynasty similar to those found in the newly discovered tomb.

The Tang dynasty period was one of immense progress until it collapse.d after social unrest during. At its height, Tang China was a period of social progress and imperial expansion. During the Tang dynasty, China stretched its economic influence across the world, trading with other empires even as far as Rome and Syria and merchants, envoys, and travelers from other nations were a common sight in the capital. It was also a period of  progress in education and art. The Tang period of imperial China was the first to enable educated men without family connections to serve as government officials. The Tang dynasty is also seen by historians as the high water mark for classical Chinese literature and art. The tomb found in Taiyuan was probably built during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, who was called minghuang or “brilliant monarch.”

Engraved brick from the Tang dynasty.

Since the discovery of the tomb, construction work at Xiaojingyu Elementary School has been halted. Officials say that further excavations will be difficult due to the proximity of the school’s teaching buildings. According to the officials, negotiations with the school may result in the school having to be relocated and its buildings torn down. Fairly ironic for what started as a renovation project.

But, even if the school is shut down for a little while, it might end up having a net positive impact on the children’s education. I know if, when I was a kid, a thousand-year-old tomb from Imperial China destroyed my school, I’d want to know everything there was to know about imperial China. That’s how you get kids interested in history.