Bricks with Coin Design Discovered in Southern Dynasty Tomb
A video broadcast by Hubei TV (HBTV 湖北网台) on August 13, 2013 reports that a tomb dating from the Southern Dynasties was recently unearthed at a construction site in the city of Xiangyang(襄阳).
The discovery is considered remarkable because many of the bricks used in the construction of the tomb display the design of a Chinese cash coin.
Other bricks identify the family name of the owner, the craftsman who made the bricks, and the year the tomb was built.
The television broadcast in Chinese may be viewed here.
The reporter interviews Mr. Liang Chao (梁超) who is an archaeologist with the Xiangyang Archaeology Institute (襄阳市考古研究所). The tomb was discovered in June of this year.
As can be seen in the video broadcast, many of the tomb bricks display a circle with a square in the middle which is universally recognized as representing a traditional Chinese cash coin.
(Bricks with a Chinese cash coin design have also been discovered in ancient city walls as discussed in this article.)
No artifacts were discovered in the tomb which means tomb robbers had looted the tomb at sometime in the distant past.
Nevertheless, the tomb still reveals important information from a historical period which was marked by almost constant warfare.
Mr. Liang explains that a tomb with so many bricks having a coin design must have belonged to a member of the nobility.
In addition to the bricks with the coin design, a number of other tomb bricks display the Chinese character wang (王).
Even though “Wang” (王) is a common Chinese surname, Mr. Liang does not believe that the tomb owner was named Wang.
Mr. Liang says that the character wang was probably the “logo” of the craftsman who made the bricks for the tomb.
Perhaps this was a famous brand of tomb bricks at the time.
The identity of the tomb owner is not completely unknown, however.
Two other bricks display the inscription nanyang zong (南阳宗) which translates as “Zong from Nanyang”.
Nanyang (南阳) was a city in Henan during this period. Zong (宗) would be the family name of the tomb owner.
In addition to having bricks that identify the family name of the tomb owner, another brick provides the date of the tomb.
The inscription on this brick reads song da ming wu nian zao (宋大明五年造). This translates as “Built in the 5th year of the Da Ming reign of the State of Song”. “Da Ming” (大明) was the reign title of Emperor Xiaowu of Liu Song (刘宋孝武帝). The fifth year (五年) of his reign would be the year 461.
Historical records portray Emperor Xiaowu as a cruel and sexually immoral ruler.
However, Emperor Xiaowu is familiar to Chinese coin collectors for another reason. It was during his reign that coins known as “Xiaojian (period) Four Zhu” (孝建四铢) were issued. These coins have the inscription xiao jian (孝建), representing his Xiao Jian reign, on the obverse and the denomination si zhu (四铢 “four zhu“) on the reverse.
The tomb can therefore be positively dated to the year 461 and that it contained the remains of a nobleman with the surname Zong who came from Nanyang.
Mr. Liang further explains that because of the constant warfare, Mr. Zong probably fled to Xiangyang for safety and it was here where he eventually died.
Because of the turmoil of the times, there is a lack of historical records from the Southern Dynasties period. Mr. Liang emphasizes the importance of the discovery of this tomb because it can be positively dated and identified.
Because of its importance and the interesting design of the tomb bricks, the tomb will be dismantled and moved to a museum.