Chinese nobles buried with donkeys for their passion for playing polo

The discovery of the donkey bone in the tomb of Cui Shi, the noble woman who died in 878 in Xi'an helps reveal the life of the Tang nobility.

Scientists found donkey bones in the tomb of Cui Shi , a noble woman who died in 878 in Xi'an, China. It is unexpected that the creature used for labor appears in the tomb of a rich woman.

Picture 1 of Chinese nobles buried with donkeys for their passion for playing polo
Skeleton and donkey skull (top right picture) in Cui Shi's tomb.(Photo: Ancient Origins).

"There is no reason for a lady like Cui Shi to use a trick, not to mention it was sacrificed to follow her to the afterlife. This is the first time archaeologists have found such a tomb," Songmei said. Hu, the lead author of the study, said the expert at Shaanxi Archeological Institute. The research was published in the journal Antiquity on March 17.

"Trick was the first animal that humans used to carry goods on their backs. At that time, donkeys were" steam engines "in Africa and western Eurasia, but we knew almost nothing about their role in East Asia, "said Fiona Marshall, an archaeologist at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington.

"We have never found donkey bones, probably because they died on the way to transport goods and bones were not preserved. The donkeys buried in Tang aristocratic tomb in Xi'an provide the first and rare opportunity. to understand their role in East Asian society , " added Marshall.

Polo is said to originate from Iran. This sport was very developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). At that time, polo was the favorite sport of royalty and nobles. Even Cui Shi's husband, Bao Gao, was chosen by King Tang Hy Tong to be the general because he won a polo match.

However, polo is quite dangerous if the player rides large horses. A Tang king once lost his life by playing polo on horseback. Therefore, some aristocrats favored Lvju, or trick polo. Although both types of polo appear in historical records, only horse polo is shown in works of art and artefacts.

The team used carbon isotopic dating to determine the age of donkey bones in Cui Shi's tomb. They also found that the trace of pressure on the donkey's bones was not due to cargo but due to frequent running and changing directions. These donkeys are also smaller than the usual type used to transport goods. Moreover, they are about 6 years old, the ideal age to serve for polo.

The purpose of burying animals is often to serve the dead in the afterlife. Therefore, the scientists conclude, the donkeys in the tomb used to help Cui Shi play her favorite sport after death.

The new study provides the first tangible evidence that ancient Chinese aristocratic women used donkey and played donkey polo. Previously, this was only mentioned in historical records.

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