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2000-year-old Beauty Revived in Pictures


A Chinese professor has made four portraits of a beautiful woman who lived about 2,200 years ago.

The portraits were produced with the help of an X-ray of the skull of a well-preserved corpse unearthed at Mawangdui in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, a picture of the whole body, and a portrait-developing system which applies high-tech three-dimensional animation, said Zhao Chengwen, who created the portraits.

Zhao is a professor with the Chinese Criminal Police Institute based in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province.

In an interview, Zhao said it took him a fortnight to produce the four portraits. "Two portraits feature the ancient Chinese beauty at the ages of 18 and 30, and another two at the age of 50, " said Zhao.

The well-preserved body is believed to be that of Xin Zhui, wife of the prime minister of Changsha Kingdom which existed during the early Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD).

When first unearthed in 1972, it was found half immersed in a reddish fluid and encased in 20 layers of silk clothing of various kinds.

Examination showed that the subcutaneous loose connective tissues of the corpse were still elastic and the fibers distinct. The color of the femoral artery was similar to that of a newly dead body.

When preservatives were injected into the soft tissues of the body at the time of excavation, swelling ensued and then subsided gradually. It is estimated that the woman died when she was about 50 years of age.

The corpse is now kept at Hunan Provincial Museum.

In February this year, the Chinese professor also made pictures of a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) princess whose well-preserved corpse is now kept in east China's Jiangxi Provincial Museum.

Zhao hopes that one day he can create pictures of China's first emperor, Qinshihuang, if permission is given to excavate the Mausoleum of Qinshihuang and the skull of the first emperor is found whole.

While explaining that he respected and admired Qinshihuang for his great historic achievements, Zhao said that "reviving" famous people from ancient history could inspire national pride and encourage a love for China's civilization.

Emperor Qinshihuang, who died of illness in 210 BC at the age of 49, united China for the first time ever. His mausoleum, about 30 kilometers to the east of Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi province, is the largest in the world, occupying an area of 56.25 square kilometers. The terra-cotta warriors, buried with the emperor as his garrison in the afterlife, were a major discovery.

Chinese archeologists have been arguing over whether the mausoleum should be fully excavated. Some are concerned that the situation inside the tomb is uncertain, and there are still technical problems that need to be solved to protect any silk, wooden and paper relics the mausoleum may contain.

The mausoleum was included on the World Heritage List by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987.

(China Daily April 23, 2002)

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