The Tomb Economy: A Sure-Fire Way to End Illegal Looting

How to end unorganized private looting of ancient tombs?  Make it legal!  Make it a corporate, state-run enterprise that multiplies heritage parks and tourist attractions beyond counting…  

Just look at this follow-up to the Cao Cao story.  Could it just be an antiquarian Ponzi scheme that will eventually collapse, leaving people all over the world without their historical/ cultural capital?  

From the China Daily Feb 25:  

Unearthing a tomb economy

By Wang Shanshan

Excavation of the purported tomb of Three Kingdoms Period emperor Cao Cao has got some people thinking they could be sitting on a goldmine too. Wang Shanshan reports  

Farmer’s wife Chen Shufen searched through her family’s shabby two-room house for half a day looking for evidence of an emperor.  

“I had to be careful. Maybe I would find a cultural relic from the emperor’s tomb,” she says.  

Like Chen, more than 300 farmers of Lianhua village, Pengshan county of Meishan, Sichuan province, also poked around their houses in the same hope.  

Authenticity Tests in the Tomb of Cao Cao


Pengshan county government had issued an official notice and asked all its residents to report any artifacts or documents that might shed light on the emperor’s purported tomb.  

There is a legend that Liu Bei (AD161-223), the founding emperor of the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period (AD208-280), was buried in Lianhua village, also known as Lotus Village.  

“Now that Cao Cao is out, Liu Bei is too lonely to stay in his tomb. We should get Liu Bei out too,” says Fang Ming, deputy director of the Pengshan cultural bureau.  

Cao Cao (AD155-220), King Wu of Wei Kingdom, in the Three Kingdoms Period, made news headlines across China last December when a tomb that may belong to him was discovered in Xigaoxue village, Anyang, Henan province. The Anyang tourism bureau plans to build a national park at the site of the tomb.  

Following the discovery, the term “tomb economy” was coined. The business has such lucrative potential there have been big disagreements when various places have claimed the tombs of Three Kingdoms personalities.  

As for Liu Bei, three places in Southwest China, where he built his kingdom, said they have his tomb. They are Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan, Pengshan county of Sichuan, and Fengjie county of Chongqing municipality.  

In Pengshan, 13 farmers in Lianhua village signed a letter to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage requesting the excavation of a 21 m hill in the village, where they believe Liu’s tomb lies…  

But also a word of reason:  

…”Before we focused on economic development and there have already been great losses to our cultural heritage,” says Feng Jicai, author and chairman of the Chinese Folk Artists’ Association.  

“Now there is an economic crisis and governments are using culture as a tool to boost development, so there may be even more danger than before to our cultural heritage,” he says.  

“Some development of cultural heritage sites can be good. However, such development is often related to the political achievements of officials and economic gains of businesses, so it ends up damaging our cultural heritage,” Feng says.


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