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Title: A comparative study of burial caves south of the Yangzi River : highland routes and frontier communities at the fall of the Han Empire (2nd to 3rd century CE)
Author: Wei, Lia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7234 075X
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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At the fall of the Han Empire, deep-cut valleys south of the Yangzi were blooming with unprecedented activity: ostentatious rock-cut cemeteries, decorated and inscribed, turned the riverside cliffs into theatrical villages of the dead. This thesis uses a typology of rock-cut burials to map the distribution of frontier groups located on major and minor southern tributaries of the upper Yangzi, at the interface between lowland and highland. Epigraphic material is integrated with the archaeological evidence, with the latter being, in large part, first-hand material collected via direct personal survey of burial chambers cut in sandstone cliffs. This dataset is articulated particularly carefully in locational terms to produce an extended analysis of large-scale craft production and funerary expression while Han imperial presence declines on its southwest frontier (2nd-3rd century CE). While existing studies have investigated the origin of elite rock-cut tombs under the Western Han (2nd-1st century BCE) in the Central Plains, and the popularity of rock-cut tombs under the Eastern Han (1st-2nd century CE) in the Sichuan basin, they have relied on only a few excavated tombs and historical texts. These studies have not addressed the type of burials identified in this study or the specific environment south of the Yangzi River, which, apart from being an ecological boundary, was also a key political and cultural frontier. The funerary landscape investigated here elucidates the role of frontier groups in times of imperial collapse, and the topographic strategies whereby they constructed their identity. The thesis shows how, in a context of political weakening, secondary trade routes are inhabited by increasingly localized and diversified communities, diverging from funerary practices in the civilisational centres of the plains of Sichuan and the main course of the Yangzi River.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral