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China: Around The Nation

Authorities investigate ‘improper’ excavation work at tomb of China’s Shakespeare

Archaeologists accused of not following approved plan at graveyard believed to contain remains of Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 6:59pm

Work on the recently rediscovered tomb of the renowned Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu is under investigation for an allegedly “improper” excavation, according to state media.

Archaeologists located 42 tombs in the city of Fuzhou, Jiangxi province that were thought to contain the remains of Tang – often referred to as China’s Shakespeare – and his family, the local government announced at an August 28 press conference.

But the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, an agency under the Ministry of Culture, accused the city government of not notifying it about the findings beforehand or getting the proper approval for a media briefing.

Family graveyard of ‘China’s Shakespeare’ rediscovered

The ministry opened an investigation into the “improper” excavation on August 31, Xinhua reported.

The Ming dynasty (1368-1644) graveyard in Tang’s hometown of Fuzhou was badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution.

The administration in April approved a plan for excavation work to be carried out at the site, but researchers have not stuck to it, Zhang Liang, deputy head of archaeology at the administration, said.

“The plan explicitly said ‘the excavation should be carried out on the basis of abundant investigation and exploration, the digging should be limited to annexes and outbuildings only’,” she was quoted as saying by Sanlian Lifeweek magazine.

However, the archaeologists have been excavating what is believed to be Tang’s tomb, she said.

The playwright was famed for his masterpieces The Peony Pavilion, The Legend of the Purple Hairpin, The Story of Handan, and The Dream of Nanke, which are known collectively as The Four Dreams.

Many of his works reflected a particularly liberal strand of thinking, including pieces written from a female perspective, which was rare for the time.

Tang died in 1616, the same year as Shakespeare and the renowned Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.