Tomb of Western Han Emperor in Jiangxi Manifests Finest Craftsmanship of Imperial China

One of China's top archaeological discoveries, the tomb has yielded the largest number of relics, boasting of the finest craftsmanship in Jiangxi.

Haihunhou Tomb

Dethroned after 27 days, Liu He (92-59 B.C.), master of the Haihunhou Tomb, was banished as a commoner and was later allowed to reside near a lake and given the title of the Marquis of Haihun. He died in his early 30s, reports People's Daily Online. Its reporting team visited the site and interviewed a leading researcher about the discovery of relics inside the tomb.

Such vicissitudes might have deprived his life of imperial glory, but the relics unearthed from his tomb tell a different story, revealing a dynasty's grandeur.

The tomb near Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, turns out to be the best-preserved Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD) cemetery ever found, with the most integrated structure, distinct layout and complete sacrificial system.  

One of China's top 10 archaeological discoveries in 2015, the tomb has yielded the largest number of relics, boasting the most variety and the finest craftsmanship in Jiangxi. 

Among the relics, including gold, bronze, and jade artifacts, archaeologists discovered a broken lacquer "screen" in the main chamber of the tomb and restored two portraits, one of which is believed to be the earliest portrait of Confucius ever found in China.

Also unearthed were over 5,000 pieces of bamboo slips of Confucian classics, indicating the prevalence of Confucius' teachings over 2,000 years ago.

The Qi version of The Analects of Confucius, which had been lost for about 1,800 years, was found in the unearthed bamboo slips which have been subject to infrared scanning and are ready for further study.

It is also the only tomb with a chariot burial site in the south of the Yangtze River. Five well-preserved horse-drawn vehicles, each with four sacrificed horses, were found, indicating that the owner was among the highest echelons of the Han Dynasty.

Liu, the marquis, was the grandson of Emperor Wu, whose reign ushered in a  prosperous period of the Han Dynasty that is believed on par with the reign of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. 

"To know Emperor Qin and his dynasty through archaeological artifacts, one can turn to Terra-cotta Warriors. Nevertheless, before the Haihunhou tomb, there were not many artifacts for an in-depth study of Emperor Wu," said Yang Jun, a researcher at the Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the leading archaeologist. 

The trove of gold items unearthed is the largest single batch ever found in a Han Dynasty tomb, proof of the dynasty's rich gold reserves. 

The 4 million unearthed Wuzhu bronze coins attested to the dynasty's opulence. This finding is also the first hard evidence of the Chinese using a string of 1,000 coins as a monetary unit, pushing the original date back 600 years.

Source: People'd Daily Online