Face of China’s Emperor Wu Reconstructed

News March 29, 2024

Emperor Wu Facial Reconstruction
(Pianpian Wei)
Emperor Wu Facial Reconstruction

SHANGHAI, CHINA—Live Science reports that researchers led by Pianpian Wei and Shaoqing Wen of Fundan University created a digital 3-D facial approximation of Emperor Wu, who ruled China’s Northern Zhou Dynasty from A.D. 560 to 578, when he died at the age of 36. The reconstruction is based on analysis of the emperor’s skeletal remains and a DNA sample taken from his nearly complete skull, which were discovered in his tomb in northwestern China in 1996. The image depicts Emperor Wu with brown eyes, black hair, and a darker complexion resembling Northern and Eastern Asians. The DNA analysis also suggests that he was a member of the Xianbei, a nomadic group that migrated southward into Mongolia and northern China, where they mixed with people who were ethnically Han. Additionally, the researchers determined through the DNA analysis that Emperor Wu had an increased risk of stroke. Historic records described Wu as having drooping eyelids, an abnormal gait, and aphasia, or the inability to understand or express speech, which are all potential symptoms of stroke. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Current Biology. To read about excavations in Sichuan Province that uncovered the lost treasury of a seventeenth-century warlord, go to "China's River of Gold."

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