Tomb trea­sures tell af­ter­life tales

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­

The an­cient Chi­nese kings two mil­len­ni­ums ago had a hu­man side too, and their yearn­ings for a joy­ful life and af­ter­life tran­scend time.

An orig­i­nal ex­hi­bi­tion of tomb trea­sures re­cently un­earthed in China’s Jiangsu prov­ince will be pre­sented at the Asian Art Mu­seum in San Fran­cisco on Feb 17, re­veal­ing how the West­ern Han Dy­nasty (206 BC-AD 24) courts sought to glo­rify their stature in this life and the next one through rare art­works and ar­ti­facts.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, ti­tled Tomb Trea­sures: New Dis­cov­er­ies from China’s Han Dy­nasty, will show­case more than 100 ar­ti­facts ex­ca­vated be­tween 2009 and 2011 from an im­pe­rial tomb that sur­vived more than 2,000 years un­der­ground in the coastal heart­land of clas­si­cal Chi­nese cul­ture.

The royal burial goods, which have never be seen in the US, re­veal the un­bri­dled lux­ury, tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions and courtly ro­mance of the Han elite, such as del­i­cate jade body suits sewn with gold threads, exquisitely dec­o­rated coffins, in­ge­nious “smokeless” lamps, sil­ver and bronze ban­quet uten­sils and ri­tual bell sets that still ring.

The Han Dy­nasty, like the Ro­man Em­pire, forged one of the most pow­er­ful, ad­vanced civ­i­liza­tions of the an­cient world. The Han peo­ple took death like be­ing born, hop­ing to bring their valu­able ob­jects to the next life.

At the tomb site in Dayun­shan Moun­tain, Xuyi county, there were three main tombs and 13 ac­com­pa­ny­ing tombs and nine burial pits, where a great num­ber of ex­quis­ite items made of bronze, sil­ver, gold, and jade were re­cov­ered.

“In ad­di­tion to lux­u­ries, roy­als sur­rounded them­selves with do­mes­tic wares that sur­prise us with their in­ti­mate por­trait of pri­vate life dur­ing the Han dy­nasty,” said Fan Zhang, cu­ra­tor for Chi­nese art at the Asian Art Mu­seum.

“We have ev­ery­thing from a large sil­ver basin for tak­ing baths, to a work­ing stone la­trine with an arm rest, to a boldly de­signed ce­ramic uri­nal — we even have two hol­low bronze phal­luses,” Fan said.

Fea­tur­ing the life­styles and pri­vate plea­sures of the Han no­bil­ity, Tomb Trea­sures will be or­ga­nized into three the­matic ar­eas.

The ex­hibit­ing room — “Ev­er­last­ing hap­pi­ness with­out end” — will fea­ture the lux­u­ri­ous life and pala­tial entertainment of the Han elites, where vis­i­tors can learn more about their daily life, meals and pas­times, and ex­pe­ri­ence the mu­sic and dance of the court.

En­ter­ing the next room themed “Eter­nal life with­out limit”, vis­i­tors can ex­plore an­cient ideas about the af­ter­life and the wor­ship of jade as well as search for im­mor­tal­ity in a tomb­like at­mos­phere.

In the third room themed “En­dur­ing re­mem­brance with­out fail”, the Han courts’ pri­vate life and in­ti­macy will be re­vealed. Vis­i­tors can un­cover the long-lost love af­fairs and ex­plore se­crets from the in­ner­most cham­bers of men and women fas­ci­nated by plea­sure.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion un­der­scores how con­nected we re­ally are to the past, that we share the same pas­sions across time and cul­ture,” said Jay Xu, di­rec­tor of the Asian Art Mu­seum and ex­hi­bi­tion co-cu­ra­tor.


A sculp­ture re­cently un­earthed from a Han Dy­nasty tomb in Jiangsu prov­ince will be on dis­play at an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Asian Art Mu­seum in San Fran­cisco.

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