The underground luxury of a Western Han Marquis: major discoveries from the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun in Nanchang
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The archaeological excavation of the Western Han Tomb of the Marquis of Haihun in Nanchang, carried out from 2011 to 2015, contributes greatly to the study of Western Han archaeology, history, and material culture. This paper is an introduction and initial discussion of the results of the excavation. The paper consists of four major parts: the first part introduces the advanced “first-class excavation, first-class conservation, and first-class exhibition” and the theoretical framework of the excavation and its execution; the second part provides an overview of the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun, the cemetery, and relevant sites in the surrounding areas within the larger scope of Han Dynasty archaeology; the third part includes an introduction and preliminary analysis of the excavated objects, in particular the bamboo slips and wooden tablets, musical instruments, chariots and chariot fittings, bronze artifacts, gold artifacts, jade artifacts, and lacquer pieces; and the fourth part, based on historical records, discusses the archaeological findings in light of the Marquis of Haihun’s personal experience and the historical background of his time.
KeywordsWestern Han Dynasty Marquis of Haihun Liu He Tomb of Marquis
The Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology then established two plans for the rescue excavations, following the spirit of the official SACH evaluation and recommendation for the excavation project of the Guodun Tomb in Xinjian, Jiangxi. The first was the plan for the salvage excavation work at the tomb (江西新建墎墩墓葬抢救性考古发掘工作方案) and the second was the plan for the safety and protection of the excavation site (江西新建墎墩墓葬考古发掘工地安全保卫工作预案). These established the technical approaches for the excavation of the Marquis of Haihun’s tomb, which commenced on April 15, 2011. After six years, the archaeological work related to the tomb had surveyed almost 400 ha and excavated an area of 1 ha, achieving remarkable results. The Western Han tomb of the Marquis of Haihun, which had been sleeping for over two millennia, is now attracting great attention and opening up the study of the Haihun Principality 海昏侯国 of the Han Dynasty.
1 Archaeology of the Haihun tomb under a new philosophy
The excavation and protection of the Marquis of Haihun’s tomb received great attention from the PRC Ministry of Culture, SACH, and the local government. With the goal of featuring “the best excavation, the best protection, and the best exhibition,” the project was carried out following equivalent standards of a World Cultural Heritage application and also following PRC national field archaeological guidelines.
First, in the design of the project for the excavation of the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun, we employed the Chinese technical approach of “large site archaeology 大遗址考古,” with the project plan covering not only the tomb itself, but also the funerary park surrounding it, the greater tomb group it belongs to, and finally, the whole site of the capital of Haihun state, which contains the tomb group as well as the site of the Zijin City 紫金城. Following such an approach, the excavation work not only emphasized the tomb itself but also paid attention to the structure and elements of the tomb group and the relationship between the tombs and Zijin City, as well as the relationships between the tombs and surrounding cemeteries. By doing so, the Marquis’s tomb could be connected to the site of Haihun Principality and provide clear directions for conducting future archaeological excavations of Haihun Principality.
In 2016, we started archaeological laboratory work on the inner coffin of the main coffin, including launching our work on the cultural relics conservation and restoration of the bronze, jade, gold, and lacquer objects and bamboo manuscripts. Also, we finished the task of disassembling, lifting, and moving the outer coffin chamber, the sectioning of the tomb’s bottom, and the excavation of the tomb ramp. Meanwhile, we also carried out coring of the site of Zijin City.
Third, based on the principle that “carefully and more carefully, assuring every object is absolutely safe,” the excavation prioritized the artifacts’ on-site protection. During the process of lifting artifacts from the archaeological matrix, archaeologists and conservators worked closely together in designing collection plans and in the collection and protection work. We broadly applied the technique of artifact block lifting and laboratory excavation, effectively protecting fragile artifacts and items that had complicatedly contexts. All items we collected went through damage-controlling protection in the emergency conservation facility before being sent to the relic conservation lab and to receive specialized protection.
Fifth, following the instructions of the team of experts from SACH, the excavation involved experts from across China in every field, and especially ones from universities and science institutes. We also largely applied modern and innovative technologies in order to achieve the goals of detailed excavation, data visualization, and digitized information, and thereby guarantee the authority, regularity, and scientific accuracy of the excavations, conservation, research, and exhibits. Scientific research institutes and universities, such as the Institute of Archaeology (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), joined in the planning and the execution of the laboratory archaeology, paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, physical anthropology, and the protection of textiles, metal, jade, lacquer, and wooden objects, bamboo and wooden slips, and ceramics. Such cooperation not only strengthened the on-site collection and protection but also expanded to the lab and thus provided results that cannot be achieved simply by field archaeology.
Digital data collection and recording technologies included geophysical prospecting, GPS positioning, electronic total station surveying and mapping, GIS, aerial photography, 3D scanning, and time-lapse photography, as well as noninvasive and micro-invasive analysis and testing technology such as flaw detection, X-ray imaging, infrared scanning, hyperspectral imaging, and EDS were applied. Relics collection and protection technologies included deionized water conservation, soil-separator, menthol, nitrogen-fill protection, and low oxygen storage. Protein, pollen, and DNA analyses were broadly applied, too. Such techniques were applied across the whole process of excavation and protection, for protecting relics and for extracting hidden data as much as possible. For example, we established a GIS grid survey to map the entire funerary park, deploying detection points every 2 m with transect lines spaced 5 m apart, gathering more than 9000 detection points. We could then use this to map every object in the funerary park using three-dimensional coordinate data.
In another case, before opening the inner coffin, we applied X-ray imaging technique to understand the condition of the deceased and the remains. By EDS, we discovered that there was a lead-barium glass mat with gold-wrapped thread under the deceased and a set of iron chime stones in the north chamber, which was used in the tomb for musical instrument storage. With infrared scanning and hyperspectral imaging, we were able to obtain and record the writing on bamboo and wooden slips and on the dressing mirror with an image of Confucius and his disciples: these laid the foundation for future protection, deciphering, and study. By infrared scanning technique we discovered the title of “Knowing the Way 知道” of the Analects and thus we suggested that the bamboo scripts of the Analects in the tomb are possibly the Analects of Qi, which has been missing for 1800 years. Hyperspectral imaging also helped us to obtain the earliest Confucius figure and the earliest King Father of the East image on the Confucius dressing mirror.
2 The tomb of the Marquis of Haihun in the context of Han archaeology
The Zijin City lies to the west of Gan River 赣江 and south of Poyang 鄱阳 Lake. It is L-shaped in plan and consisted of an inner and outer city wall. The walls overall are wholly preserved, completely made of rammed earth, and feature a double wall construction. The outer wall is 2037 m long, 1759 m wide, and covers an area of 3.6 km2. The width of the base is around 20 m and some parts are still preserved reaching 2 m in height. The distance between the double walls ranges from 7.2 to 28 m. There are five gates on the four sides of the wall (water gate included), and each gate has a gate pillar. A 200 m long two-way road passing between the city gates connected to the water channel network. We discovered large-sized rammed earth foundations at the points where the roadways connected to the water channels: perhaps these are the remains of piers. The water channels inside the city connected freely into the water-filled moat surrounding the city wall. This co-existence of water routes and roadways inside the city are the most special characteristic of the Zijin City.
Preliminary results of coring in the cemetery areas show that the tombs of several generations of Marquises of Haihun were located at Huagudun 花骨墩, Citanggang 祠堂岗, Guodun 墎墩, and Sujiashan 苏家山. Surrounding this area, we also found 24 locations with tombs of nobility and numerous commoners’ cemeteries at Lingshang嶺上, Daijiaxibianshan戴家西邊山, Liujiagangxiabianshan 劉家崗下邊山, Jianfangshan 簡房山, Daijiashan 戴家山, Wufangshan 五房山, Longkeng 龍坑, Gouluandi 狗卵地, Xianfashan 先發山, Jiaozishan 轎子山, Jiashangu 夾山谷, Beiniangshan 北娘山, Luxiadujia 爐下杜家, Taipanzi 台盤子, Yangjiashan 楊家山, Zoujiaguo 鄒家墎, Shuangguojia 雙墎岬, Dagushan 大鼓山, Kejiashan 柯家山, Shuaijiagang 帥家崗, Luochengshan 羅城山, Zhuzishan 竹子山, Guojiashan 郭家山, and Wanjiashan 萬家山. The cemeteries cover an area of about 1.4 km2 in total.
3 Splendid burial goods in the Marquis’s tomb
The information from the excavation at present shows that the coffin chamber of the tomb had collapsed in early years and filled with ground water due to the impact of an earthquake during the Eastern Jin and the southern transgression of Poyang Lake during the Southern Dynasties 南朝 and Liu Song刘宋 period: because of this, several episodes of tomb robbing did no serious damage to the tomb. The objects generally remained unmoved, which is a rare case across China for excavations of high-ranking burials. To date, the tomb has yielded over 10,000 delicate, precious items, including gold, bronze, iron, jade, lacquer, wood, and ceramics, as well as bamboo and straw weaving, fabrics, and bamboo and wooden manuscripts (the latter are tags and copies of memorials). Among them, over 6000 items were discovered in the storage compartments, 1000 in the main chamber compartment, and over 3000 in the chariot pit.
The Confucius dressing mirror, which also functioned as a screen, consists of three parts: the body, the back, and the cover. The body of the mirror is a rectangular bronze board with a smooth and clean surface and no decoration and is embedded into the mirror back. The mirror body is 70.3 cm in length, 46.5 cm in width, and 1.3 cm thick, and the edge is 1.2 cm thick. The mirror back is made of wood and is well-preserved, with the interior and the exterior both painted red. The mirror back is 96 cm long, 68 cm wide; the middle part, where the mirror body is embedded, is 6 cm thick, and the frame is 11.8 cm thick. The surface of the mirror back has figures depicting stories of Confucius and his disciples. There are six painted figures that can be divided into three layers, along with notations with more than 1500 characters. The upper left has the figure of Confucius, the upper right portrays Yan Hui 颜回; the middle left features a figure of Zi Gan 子赣 / Zi Gong 子贡, and the middle right shows Zi Lu 子路; the lower left has a figure of Tangdai Zi Yu 堂骀子羽/ Dantai Mie Ming 澹台灭明, with the combined biography of Zi Yu 子羽 and Zai Yu 宰予, and the lower right has a figure of Zi Xia 子夏. The upper frame has paintings of a phoenix and the Queen Mother of the West and King Father of the East; the left frame is painted with a blue dragon 仓(苍)龙and the right with a white tiger. The painting on the lower frame is blurred but was probably a black crane, according to the “The Rhapsody of the Dressing Mirror 衣镜赋.” The cover of the mirror is wooden, which is also covered with red on both the interior and exterior, but is seriously damaged. The mirror cover is attached to the mirror back with two bronze hinges, which can be opened and closed like doors and thus can protect the mirror body by covering it. On the surface of the mirror cover is the 130 character text of “The Rhapsody of the Dressing Mirror” on the upper part, and the lower part has a painting of “Zhong zi listening to qing 钟子听琴.” There are also remains of decorations such as cranes and clouds. The backside of the mirror cover has two disciples’ painted figures and biographies, among them about two hundred characters can be recognized. The upper left side of the cover is a figure of Zi Zhang 子张, and the upper right has Ceng zi 曾子.
4 A tragedy for all ages: the fall from emperor to Marquis
Liu He’s grandfather was Emperor Wu and his grandmother was the beautiful Lady Li 李夫人. Liu He succeeded the throne of the king of Changyi at the age of 6 and was enthroned as emperor by Huo Guang 霍光 at age 19. However, Liu He had owned the crown for only 27 days when Huo Guang dethroned him and sent Liu He back to Changyi. Liu He therefore became a commoner living under surveillance but still possessed all of the wealth that originally belonged to the royal house (Han 1964: vol 63, pg. 2765). After ten years passed, considering that fact that Liu He had no ambitions to reclaim the power and the familial relationship, Emperor Xuandi 宣帝 re-established Liu He to Yuzhang 豫章 as the Marquis of Haihun and bestowed upon him four thousand families as shi yi 食邑 in the third year of Yuankang 元康三年 (63 BC). This reestablishment had two provisos: first, Liu He had to leave wealthy Shandong and move to the distant and poor territory of Nan Bo 南藩; and second, Liu He could never come back to the Han Chang’an 长安 capital to attend ancestral worship and to have audiences with the emperor (Han 1964: vol 63, pg. 2769).
Several years later, Ke, the regional inspector of Yangzhou, reported that Liu He had contact with the prior Grand Protector’s clerk, Sun Wanshi. [Ke said that] Wanshi had asked Liu He that: “When you were going to be dethroned, why didn’t you persist to stay in the palace and kill the Grand General, but allowed people to take away the seal?” Liu He said: “I did, but failed.” Wanshi also suggested that Liu He would become Marquis soon because he had been assigned to be the Yuzhang king. Liu He said: “I will, but it is not proper to discuss.” Officials in charge investigated and requested an arrest, [and the emperor] determined: “cut the three thousand families [from the shiyi食邑]” (Han 1964: vol 63, pg. 2770).
数年, 扬州刺史柯奏贺与故太守卒史孙万世交通, 万世问贺:“前见废时, 何不坚守毋出宫, 斩大将军, 而听人夺玺绶乎?“贺曰:“然。失之。“万世又以贺且王豫章, 不久为列侯。贺曰:且然, 非所宜言。“有司案验, 请逮捕。制曰:“削户三千。”
Liao, The Grand Protector of Yuzhang, suggested: “Shun established Xiang in Youbi but did not appoint Xiang’s son after Xiang was dead, because Shun thought that disorderly people should not be the beginning of a lineage. Now Liu He, the Marquis of Haihun, is dead, the one who was suggested to succeed him, Chongguo, is dead; the one who was then suggested, Fengqin, is also dead. It is Heaven who wants to end their lineage. Your majesty is sagely and virtuous and treated Liu He so kindly, even better than how Shun did to Xiang. It is proper to end Liu He’s lineage according to the rites, in order to obey the order from Heaven. Please address the relevant officials for discussion” (Han 1964: vol 63, pg. 2770).
豫章太守廖奏言:“舜封象于有鼻, 死不为置后, 以为暴乱之人不宜为太祖。海昏侯贺死, 上当为后者子充国; 充国死, 复上弟奉亲; 奉亲复死, 是天绝之也。陛下圣仁, 于贺甚厚, 虽舜于象无以加也。宜以礼绝贺, 以奉天意。愿下有司议。”
The discussion concluded with a refusal to set up a successor for Liu He, and the Haihun Principality was thereby terminated, which was represented as “Heaven ends the royal house of Changyi (天亡昌邑王族)” in the received texts (Han 1964: vol 63, pg. 2770). Later, Han Emperor Yuandi 元帝re-established the line by naming Liu Daizong 刘代宗, the third son of Liu He, to be the second Marquis of Haihun.
Thus, because of the events of his legendary life, Liu He is one of the most disputed figures in Han Dynasty history: his succession as a king, his becoming Han emperor but then being dethroned, his being suspected and feared by Han Xuandi, and his being re-established as the Marquis of Haiyun only to be degraded and stripped of the following families of his shi yi, and finally his son being crowned again.
After Liu He’s death, his family members all became commoners and no longer had the right to succession and use of the wealth of the marquisate. Among these assets was all of the wealth granted to Liu He after he was dethroned as emperor but was then permitted to succeed the first king of Changyi, Liu Bo 刘髆, as well as the wealth he gathered when he was emperor and then brought with him when he left the imperial palace, and then when he was the King of Changyi and the Marquis of Haihun. For the officials who came to oversee the funeral arrangements, the easiest way to deal with the problems associated with the disposition of his assets was to bury all of the items with marks of belonging to the king or marquis in his grave. This is the main reason that the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun yielded such abundant grave goods.
Due to the plentiful wealth, the tomb had to be large in scale. However, there were regulations regarding marquises’ burials, including the use of certain types of garments, and the appropriate worship rituals, coffins and chambers, tomb pit, location, and the funerary park, as can be seen in the Zang lü 葬律 (The Law for Funeral Rites), discovered in Shuihudi 睡虎地 tomb M77 discovered in Yunmeng 云梦, Hubei 湖北, in 2006 that dates to the early Western Han period (Hubei 2008; Peng 2009; Gao 2011). Liu He could not violate the regulations of The Law for Funeral Rites, such as those concerning the ancestral hall, the mound, burial chambers, coffins and chambers, clothing, and applied funeral equipment that required the emperor’s bestowal, such the use of the imperial burial chamber style of the Han Dynasty known as huang chang ti cou 黄肠题凑 and the jade suit with gold thread 金缕玉衣. Therefore, although there are abundant grave goods and some gestures toward the status of being a king and an emperor, Liu He was still buried according to the scale of a marquis (Bai 2016). The archaeological discoveries give witness to both Liu He’s legendary life and the powerlessness of his peculiar rise and fall (Xin 2016).
This paper was originally presented as a lecture in April, 2017, at the Tang Center for Early China at Columbia University (New York, USA). The contents were slightly revised and illustrations and notes were added for publication here. This paper was greatly assisted by Professor Li Feng 李峰 from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. Dr. Wang Shihan 王诗涵 from the same department translated the paper into English. I would like to express to them my heartfelt thanks.
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