Famous Han Tombs in China

China went through its first great development during the Han Dynasty (BC206-220AD). This more than 400-year period left later generations abundant cultural relics and over 10,000 tombs constructed for emperors and officials.

The Han tombs were mainly made of brick and stone. They were placed deep in the earth so that they would not become rotten and thus be destroyed. That's why we find so many tombs of the Han Dynasty today. To date, more than 40 Han mausoleums have been unearthed, of which the Tomb of Liu Sheng in Mancheng, Hebei Province, the Tomb of the Southern Yue King in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, and the Tomb of Lu King in Rushan, Shandong Province, remained intact. They contain a large number of precious historical relics.

During the Western Han Dynasty (BC206-25AD), China led the world in terms of politics, economy, and culture and most of the techniques developed at that time were used for many centuries. The discoveries in these tombs provide a firsthand look at some of the materials and advance our studies of the Han Dynasty.

Tomb of Liu Sheng

This tomb is included in the list of the Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries in China during the 20th century. It was built for the Zhongshan King Liu Sheng and his wife. The well-preserved tomb is large and the exact time of its construction has been accurately determined. Most of the funerary objects found in this tomb are unique, including two sets of complete jade clothes sewn with gold thread, a famous Changxin Palace Lantern, and a brilliant and delicate gold-inlaid furnace. All these objects demonstrate the advanced techniques of the Western Han Dynasty in handicrafts and arts and crafts.

Han Tomb in Mawangdui

This discovery is also included in the Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries of China in the 20th century. The 160-cm-long clothing on the body unearthed here weighed only 48 grams. What's more important is that the corpse remained well preserved through thousands of years. Totally different from the "mummies," "dry corpses" and "tanned corpses" found elsewhere, the body unearthed here was as fresh as if the person has just been buried. Such preservation is rarely seen elsewhere in the world.

Tomb of the Southern Yue King

Many cultural relics found in this tomb of the Western Han Dynasty at Xianggang in the Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong Province, are unique. It is the earliest and largest tomb of this period found in south China, and the only one of the early Western Han Dynasty that contained murals on its stone walls. The jade dancing figurine unearthed here is the only one of its kind using the technique of sculpture-in-the-round. A Persian silver box found in the tomb is said to be the earliest imported product found to date.

Tomb of the Officials in Changsha

This tomb was unearthed in 1993 in Changsha, Hunan Province. The status of the occupant and scale of the tomb both surpassed those of the Mawangdui Tomb. Of the over 2,000 relics discovered here, three painted zhu were the most unique. A zhu was an ancient 13-stringed instrument played by striking the strings with a light bamboo stick. For a long time, people knew little about such a musical instrument, and the discovery helped to advance musical knowledge.

(CIIC 02/23/2001)

In This Series

New Discovery at 2000-Year-Old Tomb

Han Dynasty Ruins Unearthed in Xuzhou

Chengdu: Ancient Tomb Calls for Urgent Protection

More Pits Unearthed around West Han Dynasty Royal Mausoleum

Han Dynasty Tomb Found in Guangdong

The Earliest West Han Dynasty Royal Mausoleum Unearthed

Ancient Tomb Opens to Public



Archaeological Discoveries

World Cultural Heritage in China

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