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Tomb of Wang Jian - I

Discovery of the Tomb of Wang Jian (王建墓)

Tomb of Wang Jian is located in the northwestern suburbs of Chengdu city. When you're in Beijing, you visit the Ming Tombs. The tomb of Wang Jian is much smaller, compared with the ones in Beijing. However, this tomb is much older and was built during the Five Dynasties and Ten States Period (907-960). Historically it was named Yongling Mausoleum. I think it is worth visiting this atypical tomb in Chengdu.

Wang Jian (王建,847-918) was the first emperor of the Former Shu Kingdom during the Five Dynasties and Ten States Period. At the beginning of the 10th century, the Tang Dynasty collapsed, and China once again split into a number of short-lived independent dynasties and states.

During this period, five dynasties came into being. They occupied the areas covering the middle and lower sections of the Yellow River. The other areas split into the ten states. Most of them were located in the South. So this period is often referred to as the Five Dynasties and Ten States Period.

The Former Shu was one of the ten states. Wang Jian served as the first emperor for 12 years. He was buried in this tomb. Originally his mausoleum was spectacular. It included a hundred grand frescoes. During the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) many of the mausoleum constructions were destroyed.

The remaining buildings were used as a Buddhist temple by the name of Yongqingyuan (永庆院). Later, a terrible fire broke out and burned down the temple. Nothing was left but the tomb. As years went by, trees and grass covered the whole surface of the tomb, and it looked like a small and desolated hill and went unnoticed.

The tomb remained unnoticed until in 1940. As you know, the War of Resistance Against Japan was between 1937 and 1945. The Japanese troops invaded China. But their soldiers didn’t reach Sichuan. However, their military airplanes kept bombing Chengdu and some other places. Local people dug an air-raid shelter in an attempt to hide and protect themselves from being bombed. In 1940, a group of people happened to dig a shelter at the foot of the tomb hill. By chance they discovered that the small hill was a tomb. In 1942, a team of archeologists started excavating the tomb.

Their excavation confirmed that it was the mausoleum of Wang Jian. Afterwards the tomb was sealed again. When New China was founded, the government allocated special funds to maintain the tomb. In 1961, the tomb was designated a “protected treasure” of the state. In 1979, the tomb was opened to visitors. The current mausoleum covers an area of 50 mu.

Emperor Wang Jian’s Life Story

Innermost chamber contains a statue of Wang Jian in a sitting position. It is 86 centimeters tall, wearing an informal dress. He has a high nose bridge and sunken eye sockets. Earlobes hanging down to his shoulders.

Wang Jian was born in Henan Province. It was said that he was a rascal when he was young. He slaughtered cows, robbed donkeys and smuggled salt. Later he joined the army. He was promoted to a troop officer because of his bravery and cleverness. Towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, he took charge of the emperor’s palace guards. Later he served as a prefecture governor of Li Zhou at the present site of Guangyuan.

Gradually, he governed the vast area in western Sichuan. In 903, he became the king of the Shu State. In 907, Zhu Quanzhong(朱全忠) established the Later Liang Dynasty (907-923) after he defeated the Tang. Wang Jian took the opportunity to claim himself to be the emperor of the Former Shu and began to exercise his local power.

According to historical records, Wang Jian didn’t have much education, but he enjoyed talking with well-learned scholars. Wang Jian treated them very well and offered them high positions in his government. At that time, war occurred frequently in central China, constantly creating chaos. Hence, many well-known scholars arrived in Sichuan and worked for Wang Jian in his state.

During the early time of the Former Shu State, Wang Jian issued a series of policies, which benefited the state and local people. His policies lightened the heavy tax burden on local farmers and encourage local farmers to develop agriculture. The state remained prosperous for a number of years. However, as he grew old, Wang Jian believed the rumors from his eunuch and his concubines, and appointed one of his sons, Wang Yan to be his heir to the throne. After Wang Jian died, Wang Yan became the emperor, and them the Former Shu State began to decline. In 925, the troop from the Later Tang Dynasty (926-936) attacked the Former Shu State. Within a couple of months the state was completely defeated.

Continue to part 2

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