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| During the
reign of Chinese dynasties, the ancient Chinese believed that when a person
dies, he or she entered into the after life. Death was comprehended as
a prolongation of life, and an emperor's mausoleum was his after-life
palace, mirroring his regal life on earth. All of the daily comforts of
their past life such as servants, attendants, objects, pets, wives, guardians,
concubines, food and drink were to be provided for them in the after life.
This was accomplished by burying all of these things with the deceased
when they died. As an ancient Chinese philosopher said, "Treat death as
life." It was not uncommon to kill people in order to be buried with their
master, but as dynasties evolved clay replicas replaced the real thing.
Tombs of the ancient emperors and other nobles were often very elaborate.
Around the 4th century BCE, the Chinese began to build large mounds over
the tombs, erecting small temples next to the mounds so family members
could leave offerings to their ancestors. The temples were also used for
rituals to honor the deceased family member, who was believed to have
influence over the fortunes and well-being of the living. The path leading
to these tombs were called "spirit paths", and these paths were guarded
by carved figures of soldiers, animals, or imaginary creatures called
chimeras. Chimeras were one of the most common tomb guards and came in
pairs facing each other on opposite ends of the spirit path.
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many rulers and nobles who were honored with a tomb built in their name;
however, there are only a handful of extraordinary tombs that are visited
today by millions of visitors each year. These particular tombs stand
out for many reasons: some are vastly large, and others are filled with
exceptional tomb goods. Of the most recently excavated tombs, the Qin
Shihuangdi tomb, the Han tombs and the Quanling tomb from the Tang dynasty
are the most notable.
In March of 1974, near the city of Xi'an, farmers were digging a water
well and came across a fragment of a warrior figure. After further investigation
by archeologists, the warrior figure was found to be part of the terracotta
army of Qin Shihuangdi, who ruled the Qin dynasty from 246 BCE to 210
BCE. At the time of Qin's death, human sacrifice was less common. Rather
than ordering his entire army to death, he was buried with an astonishing
6,000 symbolic life-sized terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots assembled
to protect him in the next world.
The emperor's terracotta army was found in three underground wooden
vaults. The first vault contained chariots and the 6,000 soldiers.
Vault 2 contained 1,400 figures of cavalrymen, infantry, horses,
and 90 wooden chariots. The third vault contained 70 various additional
figures. During the Qin dynasty rivals from the upcoming Han dynasty
looted the three vaults and vandalized many of the figures. Today,
archeologists continue to excavate the site, and have built a museum
over the tomb itself.
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In an age of conspicuous consumption, the Han dynasty tombs became grounds
of status symbols and visible expressions of virtue and wealth. Unlike
the first emperor, Qin, the figurines from this dynasty came in miniature
proportions. The joint tomb of the emperor Jingdi and his wife empress
Wang displayed 24 vaults filled with over 40,000 clay soldier figurines;
each one-third life size, with movable arms, and fully clothed. In addition
to the soldiers there were clay figurines of animals, agricultural machinery,
carts, tools, weights, and measures. Han tomb materials were not only
terracotta, but also bronze, iron, and wood.
such as that of emperor Liu Sheng and his wife the princess Dou Wan, have
been found in spectacular jade suits made of thousands of small plaques
sewn together with gold thread. The Chinese believed that jade would protect
the corpses from decay; it was a symbol of life and vitality. Liu Sheng's
tomb in Mancheng, Hebei was built like an actual house with horses, stables,
windows, storerooms with cookbooks and even a bathroom! Most of the 2,800
goods found in this tomb are unique and include the jade suits and other
jade products, the famous Changxin Palace lantern and a gold-inlaid furnace.
to see a photo of the Changxin lantern.
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Tombs found in the town of Mawangdi, Changsha and Hebei contain well-crafted
silks. The mummified bodies, such as Lady Dai, were wrapped in 20
garments, bound with silk ribbons and covered in silk banners depicting
her journey to the land of them immortals. The tombs also included
many bronzes of the Ferghana horses - prizes for their long legs,
which slowly replaced the short-legged horses during the Han dynasty.
tombs from other dynasties, Han tombs were made mainly of bricks and stone,
and placed deep into the earth for a greater preservation. The attention
to preservation allowed archeologists to find a number of Han tombs intact.
To date, more than 40 Han mausoleums have been excavated.
(National Palace Museum in Taiwan) for additional pictures
of these tomb goods.
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tomb of the Tang Dynasty was a
joint tomb of emperor Tang Gaozong and
empress Wu Zetain - the only empress in Chinese history. Quanling is a
town about 80 miles west of Xi'an. The tomb was a rectangular layout of
the city of Chang'an, with four gates on each side. The tomb's circumference
is 40 kilometers and hosts 17 satellite tombs of princes, kings, and high
ministers, such as the tomb of Crown Prince Zhuanghuai, the tomb of Crown
Yide and the tomb of Princess Yongtai.
hills upon hills of animals and human statues leading the way to these
tombs. Among the amazing tomb goods are two winged horses, two vermilion
(ostrich-like) birds, the Tablet of Seven Elements (sun, moon, metal,
wood, water, earth and fire), and 61 stone king figures from foreign countries
who attended Tang Gaozong's funeral - all original to this dynasty.
goods included tri-color glazed pottery figures, poetry, porcelain ware,
murals, and relics. A variety of materials were used to make these artifacts,
among them bronze, gold, wood, jade, copper, iron, and a variety of earthly
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