Sarcophagus of Song Shaozu

Song Shaozu’s sarcophagus, consisting of 101 pieces of carved stone, is one of the largest and most impressive Chinese tomb objects ever found. Built with its entrance facing the auspicious south, the tomb imitates a traditional wooden three-bay ceremonial hall. On the outside, carved and raised circular decorations, embellishments often found on temple and palace doors, indicate the high rank of the deceased. Other decorative elements such as carved masks with handles (pushou) and the central support of the porch roof (known as “man-shaped” after the Chinese character for man, ren, “人”) demonstrate the willingness of nomadic elites to incorporate foreign and Chinese influences into their art and architecture. This is the first time ever that Song Shaozu’s sarcophagus has been exhibited outside of China.



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