Tomb of An Bei

The Tomb of Ān Bèi (Chinese: 安備墓), is a 589 CE (Sui dynasty) funeral monument of a Sogdian man named "An Bei" in his Chinese epitaph.[3] The tomb was looted in 2006-2007, and its content sold in the art market. Part of the base of the tomb as well as the epitaph are now in the Tang West Market Museum (大唐西市博物館) in Xi'an.[3][4]

Tomb of An Bei
Tomb of An Bei (panel 1).jpg
One of the decorated panels of the tomb of An Bei, showing a procession of non-Chinese foreigners led by An Bei.[1] [2]
Created589 CE
Luoyang is located in China


An Bei was probably a third generation Sogdian immigrant to China. His family originated from the city of Bukhara, as suggested by the name "An".[3] An's family came to China during the Northern Wei dynasty, and some of his relatives served in the Bureau of Tributaries.[3] Anbei's father was named An Zhishi, and he served as a middle-ranking officer in the honour guards of the court.[3]

According to the epitaph, An Bei lived in Luoyang. He became a low-level clerk in the military headquarters of a vassal of the emperor, during the Northern Qi period. When the Northern Qi were replaced by the Northern Zhou in 577 CE, An Bei returned to Luoyang where he died at the young age of 34, in 589 CE.[3] An Bei followed the Confucian moral principles of filial piety, and practiced Zoroastrianism.[5][6]


The tomb was composed of a stone couch with decorative panels, a structure which is typical of tombs built in China at that time.[3] The panels show a procession and a caravan of non-Chinese people, a banquet scene with Sogdian music and dance, and a drinking scene in a garden.[2] One panel show the deceased leading a caravan, another the deceased leading a procession of nimbate men, a possible scene of the afterlife. Many wear pseudo-Sasanian crowns.[1] Another panel shows a banquet scene, with danse and music.[1] The last panel scene seems to belong to the afterlife, showing Bacchantic individuals, similar to the Indian Kubera, drinking wine.[1]

Other known tombs of Sogdians in China generally belong to high-ranked officials who were heads of a Prefecture, or "Sàbǎo" (薩保, "Protector, Guardian", derived from the Sogdian word s'rtp'w, "caravan leader"), used for government-appointed leaders of the Sogdian immigrant-merchant community.[7][3] On the contrary, An Bei was far from being an aristocrat, and was a quite ordinary person.[3] He was also quite integrated to Chinese society, as, according to the epitaph, "Although he is a foreigner, after a long life in China, there is no difference between him and the Chinese".[3]


Epitaph of An Bei
  1. ^ a b c d e Grenet, Frantz (2020). Histoire et cultures de l'Asie centrale préislamique. Paris, France: Collège de France. p. 324. ISBN 978-2-7226-0516-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mueller, Shing (1 January 2019). "Funerary Beds and Houses of the Northern Dynasties". Early Medieval North China: Archaeological and Textual Evidence: 450.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Li, Yusheng. "Study of Tombs of Hu People in Late 6th Century Northern China": 102–103. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Mueller, Shing (1 January 2019). "Funerary Beds and Houses of the Northern Dynasties". Early Medieval North China: Archaeological and Textual Evidence.
  5. ^ Mao, Yangguang (2011). "Textual Research on the Newly Discovered An Bei' s Epitaph of the Sui Dynasty in Luoyang". Archaeology and Cultural Relics.
  6. ^ Epitaph of An Bei: "故开府长兼行参军安君墓志铭”,全文记载“君名备,字五相,阳城县龙口乡曹刘里人。其先出于安居耶尼国,上世慕中夏之风。大魏入朝,名沾典客。父知识,齐车骑大将军、直荡都督、千乘县散男。君种类虽胡,入夏世久,与汉不殊。此即蓬生麻中,不扶自直者也。善于白圭之术,蕴而不为,玄髙之业,弃而不慕。讷言慜行,唯事安亲。室名龙驹,乡号指南。孝悌之响,闻于邦国。武平之末,齐许昌王莫府初开,牒为长兼行参军。一参府寮,备经驱使。虽未执断,小心恭奉。时辈之中,谦直逊顺。屡展懃诚,渐望昇进。但事与愿违,遇周统齐,许昌失宠,归于廉之第。君便义绝,遂还旧庐。敛志东皋,归田二顷。忽萦疾,医僚无工。大命运穷,奄从朝露。时年卅有四,以大隋开皇九年岁次己酉十月辛酉朔廿四日甲申葬于瀔水之南,张分桥侧。恐山壑时移,乃为铭曰:门标贵胄,世代高良。比兰斯馨,譬蕊能芳。弱冠释褐,奉事君王。年始过立,奄归元常。" in "墓誌數據庫詳情-浙大墓誌庫".
  7. ^ Xu, Jin 徐津 (1 January 2019). "The Funerary Couch of An Jia and the Art of Sogdian Immigrants in Sixth-century China". The Burlington Magazine.