Huge ancient stone murals discovered in central China

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Huge ancient stone murals discovered in central China
Photo taken on Sept. 21, 2022 shows part of a stone mural discovered in the Zhouqiao relics site in Kaifeng City, central China's Henan Province. (Xinhua/Li An)

Two stone murals from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) have been unearthed in central China's Henan Province, which are the largest of their kind ever found in the country, archaeologists said Wednesday.

The murals, discovered in the Zhouqiao relics site in Kaifeng City, are symmetrically distributed along the northern and southern banks at the east side of the Zhouqiao Bridge.

The murals are 3.3 meters in height, and it has been revealed that the excavated length of the south bank mural is 23.2 meters, while that of the northern one is 21.2 meters.

The stone murals are engraved with auspicious patterns of traditional Chinese culture such as seahorses, flying cranes and clouds.

Further excavation and cleanup work is still in progress, said Zhou Runshan, head of the excavation project, adding that the total length of a single mural is presumed to be about 30 meters.

It is estimated that the total length of the stone murals is expected to reach about 100 meters and the total carved area will reach around 400 square meters upon complete excavation of the murals on both east and west sides of the bridge, Zhou added.

"In terms of scale, subject and style, the stone murals can represent the highest standards of the stonework system and the highest level of carving techniques during the Northern Song Dynasty," said Zheng Yan, a professor at Peking University's School of Arts.

"It is an important discovery that enriches and rewrites the art history of the Song Dynasty," he added.

Zhouqiao Bridge was built between 780 and 783 in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) across the Grand Canal, a vast waterway connecting the northern and southern parts of China. It was a landmark structure in the central axis of Kaifeng City and was buried in 1642 by mud and sand due to the flooding of the Yellow River. Archaeological excavation of the Zhouqiao site was launched in 2018.

So far, a total of 4,400 square meters of the site have been excavated, and 117 sites of remains and ruins have been found. 

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