Chinese archeologists have unearthed a total of 42 tombs near the Jiangxi city of Fuzhou, one of which belonged to famed Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu, also known as “China’s Shakespeare.”
Tang is known for writing plays about people overcoming class differences. His masterpiece, “The Peony Pavillion,” tells the magical story of a young, poor scholar’s love for a beautiful noblewoman. However, even after resurrecting his beloved from the dead, the scholar is still rejected by his sweetheart’s father, who has him imprisoned as a grave robber. Fortunately, everything works out fine in the end thanks to the scholar’s high marks on the imperial service exam, which allows him to escape a gruesome death by torture.
Tang’s tomb was found among dozens of other Ming dynasty era tombs in his hometown of Fuzhou. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, archeologists also discovered six epitaphs that Tang is believed to have written for family members.
Over the years, many have drawn parallels between the lives of Tang and the great British bard. Even Chinese President Xi Jinping called Tang the “Shakespeare of the East” during his 2015 state visit to the United Kingdom. Besides their respective popularity and renowned in their countries, the two authors also happened to die in the same year, 1616.
Xi’s praise has been just one of the ways that China has tried to promote the works of one of its greatest dramatists by comparing him to Shakespeare. Last year, the Fuzhou government announced plans to build a replica of Shakespeare’s hometown to be called “Little Stratford,” while Xinhua published an extremely trippy music video comparing the lives of the two masters, about which one YouTube commenter said: “It’s acceptable… on mute.”
In light of this promotional campaign, it is perhaps a bit hard to understand why it took so long for Tang’s tomb to be rediscovered. Well, it turns out that the old tombs were found during the Cultural Revolution, ransacked by Red Guards and then forgotten about until a nearby factory was demolished and local archeologists discovered evidence that “China’s Shakespeare” was likely buried in the area. Quartz reports that “not a single bone or relic was found in the tomb.”
By Máté Mohos
[Images via The Paper]
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