The Tomb Group of Asitana is located near Asitana Town, 40 kilometers southeast of Turpan City, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Asitana means capital city in the Uygur language. The tomb yard served as a public cemetery for Gaochang City residents from the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The tomb group covers a land area of some 10 square kilometers, five kilometers long from east to west and two kilometers wide from south to north. The tomb group's location area is dry, with water located 20 meters below the land's surface. Since the coffin chambers are situated three to five meters below ground level, most of the objects and corpses found in the tombs were kept intact.
Thirteen excavations have been conducted since 1959 where 400 tombs from the Western Jin Dynasty to the Dali Period of the Tang Dynasty have been cleared, containing thousands of valuable antiques. Based on the findings, archeologists began to study the unearthed fabrics, written records and history of the tombs.
Over 2,000 legible historical records were unearthed. Most of the records documented public affairs and included contracts of employment, commerce, loans and borrowing, accounting, government records of crimes and accusations, medical prescriptions and personal letters. These ancient records have been straightened up according to chronology and edited into a book,Unearthed Records of Turpan.
Over 1,000 silk fabrics, woolens, cotton and linen were unearthed, including the brocade, gauze, satin and embroidered materials with bright colors and fashionable designs. The fabrics mainly originated from the Central Plain area in China, and some were produced in Persia and Xinjiang. They are considered valuable specimens for the study of China's history and the development of the textile industry in ancient Xinjiang.
Paintings of various forms were also discovered, such as paintings on walls, paper, silk and linen that focused mainly on human figures, flowers, birds and the sky. Fine art treasures such as clay statues, wooden containers and colored pottery pots with unique characters were also discovered. Hundreds of thousand-year-old corpses serve as specimens for the study of races and national character of Xinjiang residents.
The earliest-written chronological record found was inscribed on wooden slips in 273; the latest dates back to 778. The relics demonstrate that the tomb group is from the third to the eighth centuries. Records from the tombs -- mainly written in Chinese characters -- including the many names of ethnic minorities suggest the tomb's occupants were mainly from the Han people, including a few others from ethnic minorities.