Found not far from a modern day railway station, the circular tomb has no human remains but instead has murals which show vivid scenes of life. “The tomb murals mainly depict the daily domestic life of the tomb occupant,” and his travels with horses and camels, a team of researchers wrote in their report on the tomb recently published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
On the east wall, people who may have served as attendants to the tomb’s occupant are shown holding fruit and drinks. There is also a reclining deer, a crane, bamboo trees, a crawling yellow turtle and a poem. The poem reads in part, “Time tells that bamboo can endure cold weather. Live as long as the spirits of the crane and turtle.”
The tomb also contains images of what appear to be the occupant’s pets. On the north wall, there is “a black and white cat with a red ribbon on its neck and a silk-strip ball in its mouth,” the researchers wrote, with the same scene also showing “a black and white dog with a red ribbon on its neck and a curved tail.” Male and female attendants are shown beside the cat and dog, with an empty bed lying between the animals.
The tomb’s ceiling contains stars painted in a bright red color. The “completed constellations are formed by straight lines connecting the stars in relevant shapes and forms,” the researchers wrote.
Archaeologists also found a small statue of the occupant. The statue is 3.1 feet (0.94 meters) tall, and shows a smiling man who is wearing a long black robe while sitting cross-legged on a platform. It could be that the statue was used as a substitute for the body in the burial, the researchers said, noting this practice wasn’t unusual among Buddhists at the time.