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Tomb Treasures

New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty
Feb 17 —
May 28, 2017


Deep within the earth, a tomb is touched by sunlight for the first time in 2,000 years. Inside, a treasure trove of vast riches entombed during one of the most powerful and advanced civilizations of the ancient world — China’s Han dynasty.

The Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) achieved great prosperity and cultural richness. Ruled by 29 emperors for over 400 years, the dynasty represents the first “golden era” of development in Chinese history, a time when its diverse ethnic groups experienced relative stability, social development and harmony.

Objects in Tomb Treasures were excavated from royal tombs in China’s Jiangsu province, mostly from the mausoleum of Liu Fei, which has generated significant buzz in recent years. In early 2009, the deaths of four tomb robbers brought the attention of the local government to a rural site: a stone quarry on Dayun Mountain. Over the next two years, archaeologists excavated three large tombs, 13 attendant tombs, two weaponry pits and two chariot pits containing more than 10,000 artifacts. These fascinating objects share stories of the economic and social development of the Han dynasty and provide insight into the quest of the Han elite for glory even after death.

Measuring over 1,600 feet on each side, the royal mausoleum’s total area amounts to almost 2.7 million square feet, about the size of 35 soccer fields. It consists of the tombs of Liu Fei and his two consorts, dozens of graves for concubines, and pits for chariots and weapons, closely resembling how the king’s actual palace would have been designed. The mausoleum was amply stocked with items that the king would find useful or enjoyable, everything from weapons to kitchen utensils to musical instruments to human figurines that would act as servants in the next world. Objects were often packed together tightly, and many were found damaged and later restored by the Nanjing Museum.

「王陵瑰寶」展出的文物出土自江蘇省內兩處保存較為完整的漢朝陵墓,其中之一是西漢江都王劉非墓。2009年初,江蘇大雲山發生了嚴重盜墓事件,四名盜墓者喪失性命。之後,考古學家進行了全面勘探與發掘,揭出陵園內三座主墓 、十三座陪葬墓 、兵器陪葬坑兩座、車馬陪葬坑兩座,出土了約10000件精美文物。此次展出的物品生動地展示了漢代經濟和社會的演變,道出王侯貴族們為了在死後重複生時的一切所花費的心思。