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Astana Tombs  
Astana Tombs

The ancient tombs of Astana, located in the Three and the Two Castles County in Turpan City, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, are a significant and protected national cultural relic.

These tombs are the burial sites of the residents of the Three Castles County (Astana), and the Two Castles County (Halahezhuo) since the time of the West Jin Dynasty and the Sixteen Kingdoms Period (about 3-5 Century AD). Most of the residents in Gaochang Ancient Town and the surrounding environs were buried here (a large part of them were buried as families in a common grave). For centuries the location was continuously used as a gravesite, and this continued until the Qu Gaochang State Period (500-640 AD) and the Xizhou Period of Tang Dynasty (640 -8th Century AD).

The tombs of Astana are distributed in a ten square kilometer aspect, east of Halehezhuo and north of Astana, roughly 5 kilometers long east to west, and 2 kilometers wide north to south. About 400 or so tombs have been discovered and resurrected, while it is assumed many more remain undiscovered.

All of the ancient tombs dug up recently were from the period between West Jin to the middle of the Tang Dynasty, and all of the people were buried according to families clearly marked with gravel. Others buried in the tombs of Astana include people from Han, Cheshi, Tujue, Hun, Gaoche and Zhaowu ethnic groups. Of these the Han People accounted for a large percentage. Most of their tombs are called "coup tombs", while some of them were one man and two women, or three women tombs, with a few just single tombs as well.

Characteristic of all of these ancient tombs of Astana, almost every one is equipped with a sloping grave passage, a cave grave room with gravel piled up on the floor, and the plane in the shape of Chinese character "ΌΧ" . The tombs usually have a height of at least two meters, the ceilings are either flat or concave, and most of the corpses were put on an earthen kang, or instead a simple bed in the rear of the grave room, with no coffin.

The bodies were rested with the head on a pillow with a pattern of a crowing chick; there would usually be a cloth on the face and another on the eyes, and the body would be holding a stick with both hands. The deceased were clothed in garments of cotton or silk yarn.

Around the bodies could be found the models of kiosks, vehicles, horses, musical instruments, chess, pens and ink, or foods like grapes, Jiaozi or Chinese cakes. Some of the tombs even display frescoes with smooth painted lines on the back wall of the grave room.