Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tomb of Wang Zhaojun, Hohhot

The next morning we sadly had to leave the grasslands and went back towards Hohhot.

We had just enough time to visit the tomb of Wang Zhaojun ( 王昭君) before our driver took us to the air port. Wang Zhaojun was the concubine (or rather lady-in-waiting) of the Han Dynasty Emperor Yuan. She was married to the the king of the Huns Chanyu Huhanye (33 BC). A purely political marriage to bring some piece to the ever quarreling countries. Countless poems, stories and drama plays were written about her character (Pi-Wei 1996).
Zhaojun brushes off the inlaid saddle,
Mounts her steed, tearstains on reddened cheeks.
Today, she's a lady in the palace of Han;
Tomorrow, a slave-girl in the northern steppes.
Li Bai (699-762) -  translated by Eoyang 1994

After having at least two sons and a daughter in this marriage she died and a burial mound was erected over her coffin. Whether this one is really the tomb of Wang Zhaojun is not known, since it hasn't been excavated. The 33m high mound was adorned with a chapel, as you can see in the photo.

Today it is a huge museum's complex. They also had a nice tea house and since they were just playing some music when we arrived, this was our first stop.

Look at that beautiful lithophon!

Walking up the burial mound you have a wonderful view over the landscape and the many vegetable farms.

The chapel itself is surrounded by souvenir stands.

Maybe the picture of the tragic heroine whose sacrifice (ensuring peace by marrying a barbarian) was considered by the Han Chinese as a 'living death' (Eoyang 1994, 10) is only one side of the coin. There are a lot of depictions of Wang Zhao Jun riding and having fun with her husband. So whenever you see a couple on horses it is probably a pointer to the Hun emperor and empress.

There were also two museums at the site. A small one with objects (mostly replicas) from the Xiongnu culture like the eagle-shaped gold crown from the Xiongnu grave in Hangjinqi, Inner Mongolia.

and the other the larger Wang Zhaojun Museum.

in which you are able to see life sized models of the famous couple.

In the unlikely case that you are interested in more infos about the museums you can go to my archaeology blog. There is a German version here and an English one here.

And I nearly forgot the most important thing! A day without a camel is a day lost, so here I present the camel leading the way to Wang Zhaojuns grave:


  1. link to English blog not working

  2. Please try again to-morrow - I'm working on it ;)