Concubine Tombs
The fate of concubines after their beloved emperor died varied depending on their relationship with emperor and rank. Few, like Empress Dowager Cixi and empress Wu Zetian who was buried with her husband, remained in the palace as powerful political figures. Some even caught the eye of the succeeding emperor and served him instead. Many, however, were either sent to Buddhist monasteries to live as nuns or were left unattended in the palace. (Peterson, ed. 2000) According to legend and folk stories, there have been a finite number of circumstances where imperial concubines were buried alive to accompany the deceased emperor in the afterlife. This action should not be disregarded because it is likely for concubines to succumb to such a fate even though there is lack of sufficient, credible information to support this proposition. This possibility should be taken into consideration by anthropologists because concubines were recruited to the palace mainly to display the emperor's power. If so, then having concubines as grave goods would have further strengthened the emperor's image as the most powerful man in China.

There have been only a handful concubine tombs found in China. One site, dating to the Ming Dynasty, houses the burials of several concubines to the north of Beijing. Preservation of this site, and others like it, is poor because farmers are gradually and increasingly incorporating the burials into their own farmland. Some agriculturalists are even utilizing the tombs to aid in growing their crops. (Imperial Concubine Tombs) Below is a picture of the Ming site:

The Entrance of the Concubine Mausolem-Ming site

The Qianling tomb is where Tang emperor Gaozong and empress Wu Zetian were buried. The tomb took twenty-three years to construct and it is supposedly filled with treasures. It is located in the Qian County City in the Shaanxi Province and is also the best preserved Tang dynasty imperial tomb despite destruction to some parts of the mausoleum. For more information regarding this site, please visit Qianling Tomb and also click on the image below:

Stone human statues outside the Qianling Tomb, perhaps guarding it from unwanted visitors.

In some cases, figurines of concubines were placed in the emperor's tomb instead of bodies. The figurines are similar to the Terra-Cotta warriors of Qin Shihuangdi. For more information about these warriors, please visit the Terra-Cotta Warriors Exhibit.

Song dynasty figurines of concubines in the Shrine of the Jade Emperor, Jincheng, Shaanxi province (Ebrey 2003)