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Northern Qi Tomb of Ku Di Ye at Taiyuan
Taiyuan Municipal Institute of Antiquity and Archaeology
Ku Di Ye tomb
In March of 1984, while constructing the foundation for
the local School of Coal Management, workers stumbled
upon several ancient tombs. About a dozen tombs dating
from the Northern Qi to Song, Jin periods have since
been excavated. The most important tomb is that of Ku
Di Ye 库狄业, described as follows.
I. Tomb Structure and Coffin
Ku Di Ye’s tomb has a single dug-out chamber aligned
at 180 degrees. The tomb floor is 6.4 m below the present
ground level. The ramp is to south of the tomb chamber,
15 m long, 1.5 m wide at the top, 1 m wide at the bottom,
inclining at an angle of 28 degrees. An area of 7–8 m at
the front part of the ramp had been altered by construction and could not be recovered.
The rear section (north) of the ramp turns into a dugout vaulted passage chamber, 1.2 m long, 2.2 m high, and
0.9 m wide. Its west wall is flush with the wall of the
ramp. Ceramic shards have been recovered from both the
ramp and passage chamber.
The north side of the passage chamber leads into a
courtyard, 1.4 m long, 0.65 m wide. It has a stone door
fashioned out of conglomerate rock, uneven in size and
crudely incised with patterns. They are no tenon and are
fitted together like toy bricks. The lintel is shaped like a
semi-circle, the lower edge carved into a raised ridge 18
cm high, 4 cm thick, framing the door. Above are three
plate-like ornaments with nipples. The two panels of the
stone door are rough on the back but smooth in front. The
stone door is 150 cm high, and the front has three rows
of nipple ornaments, four in each row. The hinges at the
top of the two panels are uneven in size, and there are no
hinges at the base. This stone door is clearly symbolic in
function. It can be speculated that the stone door was
made after the burial and was immediately sealed and
compacted with dirt in order to hold them in place (Fig.
North of the stone door is a tunnel. It is also dug out
of the earth and is slightly wider than the passage
chamber. It is 0.8 m long, 2.2 m high, and 1.1 m wide.
Further north is the tomb chamber.
The tomb chamber is also dug out of the surrounding
earth. The floor plan is trapezoidal-shaped, 4.2 m long,
2.6 m wide at the south end, 2.1 m wide at the north end,
and at the east and west ends are earthen platforms, 0.6
m high, 0.35–0.4 m wide. The ceiling has collapsed, but
remaining fragments indicate that the original ceiling
was vaulted, 2.5 m high in front, 2.4 m wide at the rear.
Judging from the two corners of the south wall, one can
surmise that the tomb was cave-shaped with a vaulted
ceiling. There is a robber’s hole, 0.5 m in diameter, at the
northeast corner of the tomb chamber (see Fig. 1).
The scattered remains of iron hinges and door fittings at the chamber entrance indicate that there was once
a wooden door, also largely symbolic in function.
Water that came through the collapsed ceiling was
mixed with pieces of rotted timber, but the original
structure of the coffin can no longer be reconstructed. In
the middle of the tomb chamber, slightly to the west,
there are two human skeletons, heads pointing south,
with torsos and limbs stretched out straight and facing
up. The bodies have extensively decomposed, and only
a few teeth remain. A rough estimate suggests that the
one on the east side with larger bones would be the male,
while the one on the west side would be the female
spouse. A barely discernible wood frame must have been
part of the original coffin, 1.85 m long, 0.65 m wide.
Based on the existing evidence, it can be concluded that
the two skeletons were placed in the same coffin (See
II. Tomb Furnishings
Over 120 objects have been recovered from this tomb.
All of them were once placed inside the tomb chamber.
They consist of ceramics, metal objects, bronzes, one set
of stone epitaph, etc..
1. There are over 80 tomb figurines, and can be
identified as guardian figurines, figurines wearing three123
Fig. 1 Plan and elevation of Ku Di Ye tomb
cornered hoods with flaps, figurines with shields, figurines with armor, figurines with helmets, etc..
Tomb guardian warriors, two. One of them, T84QS2
is 51.6 cm tall, with raised chest, protruding belly, and a
ferocious countenance. On his head is a hat with an
upturned brim, and he wears a fish-scale shiny armor,
black belt, white trousers and shoes. His left hand holds
a shield, and his right hand seems to have held a weapon
as the palm of his hand is pierced with a hole (Fig. 2).
Figurines with three-cornered hoods fall into two
types. Eighteen of them belong to Type I, T84QS37-5,
27.5 cm in height. He wears black three-cornered hood
with flap, red vest, black belt, white trousers and roundtipped shoes. Covering his shoulder is white fur cape. His
right arm is raised as if wielding a weapon while his left
arm is slightly lowered and bent (Fig. 3). Eleven of them
belong to Type II, T84QS35-1, 25.5 cm in height. He
wears black three-cornered hood with flap, maroon vest,
belt, white trousers and black shoes (Fig. 4).
Armored figurines, three. T84QS38-2, 27.3 cm tall.
He wears round helmet, fish-scale armor, maroon fur
cape, white trousers, and round-tipped shoes. On the left
side of the chest is a hole where a weapon would have
been held. The right arm is slightly lowered in front while
the left arm rests on the stomach (Fig. 5).
Figurines with round helmets, twelve, T84QS46-1,
23.2 cm tall. He wears round helmet, beige cape, maroon
tunic, black shoulder shield, white trousers, and roundtipped shoes. The right arm is bent forward and lowered,
the left hand is clasping the belt.
Figurines with hoods and flaps, eleven, T84QS41-6,
23.2 cm tall. He wears hood with flap, right collared
maroon vests, white trousers, and round-tipped shoes.
His both arms raised and bent as if wielding weapons as
their palms are pierced with a hole (Fig. 6).
Figurines with shields. They can be grouped into two
types. Six belong to Type I, T84QS45-1, 27 cm tall. He
wears red three-cornered hood with flap, red shiny armor,
white trousers, and black boots. He has protruding eyes
and knitted brows. The left hand holds the shield, the
right hand is raised and bent as if wielding a weapon (Fig.
7). There are 20 examples of Type II, T84QS39-6, 22.4
cm tall. He wears a beige head scarf, maroon inner
garment, vest, and the right shoulder is bare. He also
wears white trousers and round-tipped shoes. A bag is
slung over the left shoulder, the left hand holds the shield,
and the right hand is bent in front as if carrying an object.
Female officials, six. T84QS43-1. The clay body is
finely textured and sturdy, and measures 21.8 cm in
height. She has a narrow waist and a long neck, wearing
Fig. 2 Ceramic tomb guardian (T84QS2)
Fig. 3 Ceramic figurine with a threecornered hood (T84QS37-5)
Fig. 4 Ceramic figurine with a three-cornered hood (T84QS35-1)
Fig. 5 Ceramic figurine with armor (T84
Fig. 6 Ceramic figurine with a round top
Fig. 7 Ceramic figurine with a shield
Fig. 8 Ceramic female official (T84QS43-1)
Fig. 11 Ceramic guardian beast (T84QS8)
Fig. 9 Ceramic female official with a sword
Fig. 10 Ceramic attendant (T84QS44-1)
small maroon hood and wide-sleeved tunic; her hands
are clasped together in front of the chest (Fig. 8).
Female officials with swords, three. T84QS42-1, 25.8
cm tall. She wears small black hood, wide-sleeved tunic,
and belt. The right hand is holding a sword erected
upright on the ground, and the left hand is lowered in
front (Fig. 9).
Female attendants, two, both broken, T84QS44 -1,
headless, and the fragments measure 16 cm in height.
She wears wide-sleeved jacket. The right hand rests on
the stomach, and the left arm is bent downward (Fig. 10).
2. Animal figurines consisting of one guardian beast,
one clay horse, and one clay chicken.
Guardian beast, one (T84QS8), 36 cm tall, with
human face, horse’s ears, animal torso, horse’s hooves.
It is in a crouching position (Fig. 11).
Earthenware chicken, one (T84QS5), 10 cm long
and 9 cm tall.
Earthenware horse, one, damaged with only the
3. Ceramic vessels
Eight ceramic vessels include a ceramic lamp,
chicken-headed ewer, tall-neck vase, and such. The body
is fashioned out of Gaoling 高岭 clay, slightly grainy in
Fig. 12 Ceramic lamp (T84QS12)
Fig. 13 Ceramic chicken-headed ewer (T84QS13)
texture, porous, and highly water-absorbent. The vessels
are unevenly covered with a greenish-yellow glaze.
There are ten earthenware vessels consisting of bowls,
basins, cups, etc..
Ceramic lamp, one (T84QS12), assembled from a
lamp, lamp stand, and lamp base, 38 cm tall. The base is
an inverted lotus with ornamental petals encircled at the
bottom with the design of a string of pearls. The lower
section of the stand has a floral pattern, the middle
section has four strings of pearls, and the top has a floral
pattern. The lamp has a diameter of 16.7 cm. The bottom
of the lamp is shaped like an upturned lotus, and the basin
has eight lotus blossoms (Fig. 12).
Chicken-headed ewer, one (T84QS13), 46 cm tall,
has a dish mouth with a slender neck, large belly, and flat
foot. The belly is incised with a single convex line
pattern, the shoulder has a chicken head and four bridgelike loops ornamented with floral designs. Opposite the
chicken head is a dragon handle, with the dragon biting
the rim of the ewer. The dragon’s neck is connected to the
upper part of the belly (Fig. 13).
Tall-necked jar, one (T84QS21), 22.2 cm tall, flared
mouth, long neck, large belly, flat foot. The glaze does
not reach the base and is unevenly applied, thus leaving
many areas unglazed (Fig. 14).
Spittoon, one (T84QS11), 12.5 cm tall, mouth opening on the side, short collar, with flattened belly, round
at the base, and ring-footed. It is entirely covered with a
Stoneware basin, one (T84QS18), 35 cm in diameter,
3 cm tall, is straight-sided with flat base, glazed on the
Stoneware boxes with latch, two, both with grooved
rims, straight-sided, and flat at the bottom. T84QS34 is
8 cm in diameter, 2.1 cm in height.
Stoneware plate, one (T84QS19), 9.9 cm in diameter,
and 1.5 cm in height.
Earthenware pots, two. T84QS32 has gray clay
body, 25.5 cm in height, mouth slightly turned to the side,
short neck, round belly, and flat bottom. The shoulder is
decorated with two incised lines, and the space between
the two lines is incised with a fingernail pattern.
Earthenware bowls, seven. Six have reddish clay
bodies; one has a high-fired clay body. T84QS28 has a
reddish clay body. The mouth measures 13 cm in diameter,
6.2 cm in height. It has a wide mouth, round side, false
ring-foot, and the center of the foot has a chicken-heart
marking. The belly is ornamented with two incised lines.
Fig. 14 Ceramic tall-neck jar (T84QS21)
Fig. 15 Bronze cauldron (T84QS14)
T84QS30 is purplish red, 7.5 cm in height, 13.2 cm in
diameter. The vessel shape is the same as the previous
one and the entire body is buffed.
Cup, one (T84QS20), damaged, gray clay body, 4.1
cm in height, mouth 5.4 cm in diameter. The shape is
similar to that of the bowls but smaller and with a deeper
Earthenware basins, two, wide-mouthed, shallow,
with broad, flat bottom. One reddish earthenware basin
with the mouth measuring 32 cm in diameter, 2.5 cm in
height. One grayish earthenware basin with the mouth
measures 37.6 cm in diameter, 7.5 cm in height. The
outer rim of the mouth is decorated with a rope-like
4. Metal objects
Bronze cauldron, one (T84QS14), 23.7 cm in height,
with inverted mouth, short neck, round belly, and openwork ring-foot. The ring-foot has signs of soldering and
mending. The mouth has a hinge, and attached to the
shoulder is a chain for the cauldron cover (cover is
missing). The shoulder also has a pair of symmetrical
loops. The entire vessel is gleaming and darkened, the
bottom has traces of smoke, suggesting that it must have
once been used in daily life (Fig. 15).
Iron knives, iron mirrors, bronze ornamental pieces,
iron hinges, door knockers, iron nails, have also been
recovered. They are severely rusted and decomposed.
5. Tomb epitaph
Tomb epitaph, one set, sandstone, 55 cm long, 56.5
cm wide, and 21 cm thick. It was found in middle of the
front part of the tomb chamber. The epitaph cover has
beveled sides and a flat top incised in seal script with the
characters“Tomb epitaph of Duke Ku Di, Former Imperial Attendant of the Qi 齐故仪同库狄公墓铭.”The
main part of the epitaph is outlined with squares, and the
inscription is in the Northern Wei stele style, with 21
columns, and 21 characters in each column. The middle
section is slightly damaged (Fig. 16).
1. This tomb has an unusual structure. Although the
ceiling has collapsed, remaining evidence indicates that
the tomb belongs to a type with ramp, courtyard, tunnel,
and a rectangular cave-shaped tomb chamber with second-pledged platforms. The discovery of this type of
Northern Qi tomb structure is the first of its kind in the
Taiyuan 太原 area.
2. Ku Di Ye is not recorded in literature. According
Fig. 16 Rubbing from the stone epitaph of Ku Di Ye
to the tomb epitaph, he was born in Yinshan 阴山 and
lived in the northern steppes. He practiced herding by
“following the rain”and his ancestors had been tribal
chiefs. He once held the post of Governor of Jingzhou 泾
州刺史, Grand Master of the Gold and Purple Robe 金
紫光禄大夫, General of the Cavalry 骠骑大将军, Inspector of the Conquered Tribes 领民都督, Unrivaled
Honor as the Three Offices 仪同三司, Commandant of
the North 北尉少卿, etc.. He was conferred the title of
Duke of the Founder of the State in the Xianyang
Prefecture 咸阳县开国侯, Prince of the Founder of the
State of Gaoping Prefecture 高平县开国子, Duke of the
Founder of the State of the Pengcheng Prefecture 彭城县
开国公, etc.. As a middle to high-ranking official, he
must have enjoyed a special status and exerted some
influence in the Northern Qi court.
3. The tomb epitaph is very crudely prepared. The
use of the ending phrase“Domiciled in the Yongluo
Prefecture 食永洛县干”runs counter to the style of
epitaph composition, and must have been a later
interpolation. The tomb epitaph begins with the lines
“Grandfather Ku Di Qu Chen, …commanded the people’s
troops 祖库狄去臣，……领民军主都.”Obviously the
activities of the father and the early life of the tomb
occupant are missing, making it difficult to separate the
biographical accounts of the three generations involved.
Missing characters and careless mistakes are found in
4. The tomb epitaph says:
“Also received the title of
Prince of the Founder of the State in the Gaoping Prefecture,
Ku Luo Ba 库洛拔, Unrivaled Honor as the Three Offices,
Commandant of the North, Chamberlain.”This seems to
indicate that“Ku Luo Ba”is an official title. However,
the following lines:
“Passed away at Ku Luo Ba on the first
day of the third month, seventh year of the Tiantong era”
suggests that the term is a place name. According to the
“Chronicles”of the History of Northern Dynasties 北
史·齐本纪, fascicle seven,
“During that year, the first
year of Zhou Emperor Min… when an inner wall was
added to the outer Great Wall, Ku Luo Ba was over four
hundred miles east of Wuheshu.”This suggests the term
as a place name. So why is the term Ku Luo Ba inserted
between Prince of the Founder of the State and Unrivaled
Honor of the Three Offices in the tomb epitaph? Is this
simply a mistake? Or could the term be a title as well as a
place name? This remains a mystery.
Note: The original report was published in Wenwu 文物 2003.3: 26–36, with 26 figures, written by Chang Yimin
常一民, Qu Chuanfu 渠传福 and Yan Yuejin 阎跃进. The present version, an abridgment from the original, is prepared
by Qu Chuanfu and English-translated by Judy C. Ho.