Song Shaozu

A clay tablet found in Song Shaozu’s tomb identifies him as “Song Shaozu of Dunhuang prefecture, regional inspector of Youzhou and Duke of Dunhaung, buried in . . . the first year of the Taihe reign [477] of the Great Dynasty.” The Song appear to have been an established and powerful family from the northwest of Gansu when the Northern Wei Emperor Taiwu (reigned 424–452 CE) conquered the province. In one of many forced relocations during this turbulent era, Song Shaozu and his clan were probably compelled to migrate to the Northern Wei capital of Pingcheng (modern-day Datong). Song attained high rank at the new court and earned the right to an especially fine tomb that included the most elaborately carved stone sarcophagus yet found in China.

Funerary Tablet, tomb of Song Shaozu (d. 477 CE), Northern Wei dynasty (386–535 CE), unearthed 2000, Caofulou Village, Datong, Shanxi Province, Shanxi Museum, Taiyuan

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