Expert Commentary on the Liao Era Zuling Mausoleum Ruins at Bairin Zuoqi banner in Inner Mongolia
From：Chinese Archaeology Writer： Date：2009-02-20
Expert Commentary By :Qi Dongfang, Professor at Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museology.
Professor Qi Dongfang's commentary focussed on four aspects concerning the new archaeological discoveries made at the Liao Era Zuling Mausoleum ruins which he felt were of particular significance.
First of all, the importance of an archaeological discovery is based on the peculiarities of the ruins. Imperial mausoleums from earlier dynasties often exhibit innovative features and have had their influences on the mausoleum systems of succeeding dynasties, thus acting as links between the past and the present. This excavation unearthed the first imperial mausoleum dating from the Liao Dynasty, that of Emperor Yelu Abaoji and his consort, a discovery which is innovative and significant.
Second, the importance\of an archaeological discovery depends on the viewpoint of academic history. Archaeological research on Liao Era mausoleums began over half a century ago with the excavation of the Qingling mausoleum. From 1895 to 1945, Japanese historians and archaeologists spent half a century conducting the first-ever surveys of the north-eastern provinces and Inner Mongolia. As a result, practically all of the archaeological research conducted on Liao Dynasty mausoleums during the first half of the 20th Century had been carried out by Japanese scholars. These days, archaeological surveys and excavations are carried out independently by Chinese scholars and archaeologists and is an achievement we should be proud of as far as academic history is concerned.
Third, the importance of an archaeological discovery depends on the practicality of the discovery. Nowadays, if an archaeological discovery or academic achievements are importance are not just a matter of Chinese archaeology. They should be placed into the context of world archaeology for comparison study. During the past few years, two projects on the archaeological research of Liao Dynasty mausoleums have been undertaken. The first was in 2004, when Japan's Kyoto University initiated a project entitled “Royal Sovereignty and monument”. One of the sub-projects was the “Academic Survey of Liao Culture and the History, status quo and Environment of the Qingling Area”. The results of this survey were published in 2005. The other was an academic re-evaluation of the findings made by Torii Ryuzo and a team of archaeologists from Kyoto University before WWII. The archaeological investigation conducted at the Liao era Zuling mausoleum should thus be seen as a response by the Chinese archaeological community to the demands of world archaeological circles. The work conducted and the visible results of their labour confirm the development and strength of Chinese archaeology.
Fourth, from the standpoint of present-day archaeological research in post-reform China, Liao Dynasty archaeology has yielded some outstanding results, e.g. the tomb of the Chen State Princess, the tomb of Yelu-Yuzhi and the tomb at Tuerji Mountain. However, very few surveys and excavations have been carried out at Liao era mausoleums. The knowledge garnered from the survey and excavation of the Liao Dynasty Zuling mausoleum site will play an important role in establishing a new framework of Liao Dynasty archaeological research.
Participants discussed the class and identities of the occupants of Satellite Tomb Number 1, the distribution of satellite tombs in the Zuling mausoleum, and the layout and orientation of the foundations of the Group A (甲) structures as well as the ages of the gilded silver double phoenix ornament and glassware unearthed there. Translated by Kelly McGuire