The imperial tombs of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), the
Song Mausoleums, are in western Gongxian County, Henan Province.
Except for Emperor Hui Zong, named Zhao Ji (1082-1135), and Qin
Zong, named Zhao Huan (1100-1161), who, in the second year of the
Jingkang reign (1127), were taken prisoner by the Kin forces and
died in captivity in what is present-day Yilan County, Heilongjiang
Province, the rest of the nine emperors of Northern Song were all
They are emperors Tai Zu (Zhao Kuangyin), Tai Zong (Zhao
Guangyi), Zhen Zong (Zhao Heng), Ren Zong (Zhao Zhen), Ying Zong
(Zhao Shu), Shen Zong (Zhao Xu) and Zhe Zong (Zhao Xu).
The seven mausoleums, plus that of Zhao Hongyin, father of
founding Song Emperor Zhao Kuangyin, are popularly known as the
Eight Mausoleums of Seven Emperors.
The Northern Song Dynasty founded its capital at Kaifeng
but had its mausoleum area built in Gongxian County, 130 kilometers
away. The location had beautiful scenery, excellent soil texture,
low water level and good features from the geomantic perspective.
All were favorable to the digging of deep coffin pits and elaborate
burials; moreover, stone hills are numerous there, providing raw
materials for stone sculpting. Designs of the eight mausoleums are
generally alike, each mausoleum occupying an area of more than 120
mu (8 hectares) with a fairly large tomb terrace.
Terrace and stone sculptures at Songling, tombs of
the Song Dynasty in Gongyi City, Henan
Surrounding the tomb terrace were four walls; inside the wall
corners were four watchtowers; at the center of each wall was a
spirit gate; outside each of the east, north and west spiritual
gates were pairs of stone lions.
Arranged along the flanks of the spirit path on a line
outside the south spirit gate are rows of majestic stone
sculptures. Counted from the alter in front of the mausoleum
southwards (moving outward from the gate) are pairs of
chuanlu (a minister who transmitted the decrees of an
emperor and an empress), zhendian (a general who guarded
the imperial mausoleum), lions in a running posture, courtiers,
sheep, tigers, horses held by stable boys, unicorns, screens with
carved phoenixes, elephants with keepers and pillars. These stone
statues and the stone lions guarding the other three gates are
finely sculpted, demonstrating that Song Dynasty stone sculptures
had gradually discarded a pronounced mythical air and begun to
display a sense of real life.
These reflected the artistic creativity of Song Dynasty laboring
people and the unified system of stone sculpture of the Northern
Song period. The Northern Song sculptures of the early period were
rather coarsely carved, similar to Tang Dynasty style. Beginning
from the middle period of the Song Dynasty, the sculptings become
more and more exquisite and refined.
The Yongxi Mausoleum is an example. The sculpted human
figures are vivid in expression and social status is truthfully
depicted. For example, the eunuchs are full checked, broad of
forehead, reverent and respectful, holding the horsetail whisks,
very carefully awaiting the emperor's call; the chuanlu, with
square faces and large ears, are immaculately dressed with one hand
hanging down, the other on their chests, concentrating their
attention awaiting imperial orders; the zhendian generals, holding
swords, helmeted and armored, round faced and large-eyed, gaze
ahead militantly. Sculptors mostly favored, smooth, round carvings,
supplemented by level, straight segments.
Stone sculptures at Songling
Stone sculpture at Songling
Stone animals are also lifelike and spirited. The pair of
lions in a running posture, with curly hair and sharp claws,
wide-open mouths and glaring eyes, are ferocious; two saddled
steeds, their manes flowing in the wind, look ready to leap into
Stone lion at Songling
Especially exquisite are stone phoenixes at Yongzhao Mausoleum.
On either rectangular stone screen is a carved phoenix spreading
its wings, with beautiful lotus petal-shaped flowery tail-feathers
like a new fan moving wind and clouds. As a background to the stone
phoenix, a panorama of mountains form deep, tranquil valleys, and
the cliffs are dotted with mysterious ancient caves, so that people
looking at them feel as if they are facing natural scenery. All
these show that Song Dynasty stone sculpture reached an advanced
stage of maturity.
Here are brief introductions to the eight imperial mausoleums in
order of burial year:
Yongan Mausoleum: The mausoleum of Zhao Hongyin (posthumously
titled Xuan Zu), who was Zhao Kuangyin's father. The Mausoleum is
west of Changfeng Village which is 20.5 kilometers southwest of
Gongxian County Seat. It was moved there from southeast of Kaifeng
in the second year of the reign of Qian De of the Northern Song
Dynasty (964). The tomb base is 23 meters long from north to south,
29 metres from east to west and it is eight meters high. There are
eight stone sculptings 120 meters south of the mausoleum,
comprising two human statues, a sheep, a tiger, two horses, one
unicorn and an ornamental pillar.
Yongchang Mausoleum: The mausoleum of the founding Northern Song
Emperor Tai Zu (Zhao Kuangyin), two kilometers west of Yongan
Mausoleum. Zhao Kuangyin was buried here in the 2nd year of the
reign of Tai Ping Xing Guo (977). The base is 60 meters long east
to west, 62 meters from north to south and the tomb is 21 meters
high. There remain seven stone lions guarding the gates, seven
stone human statues, four stone sheep, four stone tigers, four
stone horses, two stone unicorns, two stone phoenixes, two stone
elephants and two stone ornamental pillars.
Yongxi Mausoleum: The mausoleum of Emperor Tai Zong (Zhao
Guangyi), to the east of Hutuo Village in Xicun Area. The tomb base
is 62 meters long east to west, 60 meters wide from north to south
and the mound is about 29 meters high. Around the mausoleum are 16
mounds which are the sites of structures of the time. Eight are in
front of the mausoleum, four at the back and two on either side.
Broken bricks and tiles of the Song period have been found in the
mounds. The stone sculptures of Yongxi Mausoleum are the best
preserved of the eight mausoleums. Pairs of stone lions guard the
gates on each side of the mausoleum. In the front are 50 stone
sculptures, arranged along the east and west sides of the spirit
path. From north to south, on the west side are ten stone human
statues, two sheep, two tigers, a human statue, a horse, two human
statues, another horse, another human statue, a unicorn, a phoenix,
a human statue, an elephant and an ornamental pillar, 25 stone
figures in all. The east side has a similar array with one human
statue missing, making 24 in all. Fronting the mausoleum is a stone
Yongding Mausoleum: The mausoleum is on a ridge northeast of
Caizhuang Village. Emperor Zhen Zong (Zhao Heng) was buried here in
the first year of the Qian Xing reign (1022). The tomb base is 55
meters wide from east to west, 57 meters long from north to south
and it is 21 meters high. Scattered around the mausoleum are 16
mounds, sites of structures long vanished. In front of each of four
mausoleum gates are a pair of stone lions. In front of the
mausoleum, the spirit path is lined with 48 stone sculptures. On
each side are 14 human statues, two sheep, two tigers, two horses,
a unicorn, a phoenix, an elephant and an ornamental pillar, and in
front of the mausoleum is a stone altar.
Yongzhao Mausoleum: The mausoleum of Emperor Ren Zong (Zhao
Zhen), on Heyigou Ridge, two kilometers south of Xiaoyi Bus Stop.
Emperor Ren Zong (Zhao Zhen) was buried here in the 8th year of the
Jia You reign (1063). The tomb base is 55 meters wide from east to
west, 57 meters long from north to south and 22 meters high, with
stone lions and early structures similar to those of Yongding
mausoleum. In front of the mausoleum are 13 pairs of stone human
statues, two pairs each of sheep, tigers, horses, and a pair each
of stone unicorns, phoenixes, elephants and ornamental pillars,
east and west sides being in symmetry.
Yonghou Mausoleum: The mausoleum of Emperor Ying Zong (Zhao
Shu), only 500 meters west of Emperor Ren Zong's mausoleum. Emperor
Ying Zong was buried here in the 4th year of the Zhi Ping reign
(1067). The tomb has a base 55 meters wide from east to west, 58
meters long from north to south and 20 meters high. On the west
side are 23 stone sculptures while on the east side a stone human
statue is missing, reducing its number to 22.
Yongyu Mausoleum: The mausoleum of Emperor Shen Zong (Zhao Xu),
half a kilometer south of Baling Village. Emperor Shen Zong was
buried here in the 8th year of the Yuan Feng reign
(1085). The tomb base is 57 meters wide, east to west, 60 meters
long from north to south and 17 meters high. The stone sculptures
arranged on the east and west sides number 34 in all.
Yongtai Mausoleum: The mausoleum of Emperor Zhe Zong (Zhao Xu),
also south of Baling Village. Emperor Zhe Zong was buried here in
the 3rd year of the Yuan Fu reign (1100). The tomb base is 50
meters wide east to west, 55 meters long north to south and 21
meters high. Design of this mausoleum is similar to that of the
other imperial tombs. Forty-nine stone sculptures remain in front
of the mausoleum.
In the vicinity of the eight imperial mausoleums are those of
the empresses, princes and princesses of the Northern Song Dynasty.
Besides, in the neighborhood of these mausoleums are many attendant
tombs of Northern Song ministers, such as Kou Zhun's tomb at
Koujiawan, Bao Zheng's tomb (containing his personal effects rather
than his remains) at Houquangou and Gao Huaide's and Cai Qi's tombs
at Caizhuang Village.