800-Year-Old Tombs of Lord Hu Hong Discovered in China

 Here, the rear wall of the coffin chamber in Née Wu's tomb.

Here, the rear wall of the coffin chamber in Née Wu's tomb.

Ancient tombs discovered in a Chinese construction site.

After being buried for 800 years, the tombs of Lord Hu Hong and his wife Née Wu were found in Qingyuan County, Zhejiang province, China. There's an inscription that translates to "Grand Master for Thorough Counsel." 

According to researchers, Hu Hong served the southern Song Dynasty during a time when China was split between two dynasties. There's a long inscription inside Hu Hong's tomb that tells the story of his life. In part, it reads "has been inscribed on this stone to be treasured here, in the hope it will last as long as heaven and earth!"

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In 1195 the Chinese government held a massive crackdown on the Tao-hsueh practitioners, a religious group that called out senior officials in the government and even emperors for drinking alcohol, having concubines, and multiple wives. It turns out, Hu Hong was the "Investigating Censor prosecuting the treacherous and the heretical, with awe-inspiring justice." It seems he arrested, or worse, members of this group for publicly criticizing the government. Perhaps the many people he angered in his prosecution took revenge and robbed his tomb. 

 

Missing Artifacts & Erased Inscriptions

Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology's main researcher, Jianming Zheng, led a team of archaeologists to excavate these tombs. According to them, Lord Hu Hong's tomb was already robbed but his wife's tomb was left intact. Some may suspect foul play due to the political sensitivity and, interestingly, the inscriptions in Née Wu's tomb were not readable, supposedly.

Now, the bodies themselves were extremely decayed despite the large amount of mercury archaeologists found and believe was used in attempts to preserve their bodies. Besides this, the only remaining artifacts were gold jewelry, gold and silver alloy hairpins, elephant patterned porcelain jars, and an interesting crystal disc. 

 

The Story of Lord Hu Hong

According to researchers and his tomb inscription, Hu Hong was born in April 1147 to a poor family. His father taught Confucianism to the public and, during China's 10th century civil war, his ancestors were refugees moving to Longquan County, near Qingyuan County.

"Hu Hong loved learning, but his family was poor and had no money to buy books. When there were book peddlers passing by, he would borrow the books, read them overnight and return them the next day," the "Gazetteer of Chuzhou Prefecture," which was a text published in 1486, reads in translation.

He was a student of "outstanding talent" and passed government exams amidst peer competition, according to the inscription. Making his way through government ranking over the years, he became the "best county magistrate of the year" in 1193 while serving on the northern borders of the southern Song Dynasty territory. In 1200, "at the time, the Yao tribes were rebellious, and he stamped the rebels out," the inscription reads. 

He seems quite the accomplished official. Yet, towards the end of his career, Hu Hong experienced enough to become critical of the government himself. 

"He knew that he was beyond his prime and insisted on retiring. Had he kept being outspoken, he would have been pushed out. Although worried about current affairs and concerned with the moral decline of the time, and though he could not easily let go, he no longer had the energy to fight and serve," the inscription says.

Finally, Hu Hong died in 1203 with his wife following shortly afterward in 1206 and entombed side by side. After just over 800 years, in March 2014, the tombs were discovered and published in the Chinese journal Wenwu in 2015.


Sources

https://www.livescience.com/60979-ancient-tombs-chinese-couple.html

https://www.archaeology.org/news/6111-171120-china-hu-hong