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Compass, Cosmology and Confucianism
CHINA'S IMPERIAL HISTORY: THE HAN DYNASTY
The intellectual prowess that arose during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-202 CE) led to the inventions of paper-making, cast iron, the compass, the seismograph, the wheelbarrow and the loom, to name a few. Cosmology and Confucianism flourished, as did the arts.

Trade along the Silk Road connected China with Europe during this time, and the Han Empire rivaled that of Rome. 
The elaborate burial chambers of Han rulers and nobility are testimony to the grandeur of this dynasty.

Travel with a noted archaeologist and historian to Han imperial sites. 


CHANG'AN (present-day Xi'an), capital of the Western Han (206 BCE-9 CE), is where the imperial tombs of the 4th and 5th Han emperors were buried. 
  • Yangling Mausoleum is comprised of the tomb of the 4th Emperor Jingdi and his wife. The dig yielded an extraordinary cache of thousands of pottery figurines, originally with moveable wooden arms and silk clothes. The tomb artifacts have been left in-situ and are viewed as you walk over a glass ceiling.
  • Maoling was designed for the 5th Han Emperor Wudi and is the largest of all tombs during the Han Dynasty, surrounded by 20 satellite tombs. It is a trapezoidal tumulus built from rammed earth which took 53 years to construct. The tomb was richly decorated with burial objects, now on view in the Maoling Museum. 
CHANGSHA (present-day capital of Hunan Province) was an important military and cultural center during the Han Dynasty. 
  • Mawangdui is a site comprised of three tombs which contained many classical texts on philosophy, medicine and astronomy written on silk. Among the other great finds were maps, silk paintings, and lacquerware.
  • One of the tombs contained its occupant, known as Lady Dai, who died in 163 BCE. She was buried with over 1000 objects. Her corpse was wrapped tightly in layers of silk and placed within nestled lacquered coffins, thereby perfectly preserving it.  The artifacts from the three tombs are on view in the Hunan Provincial Museum in Changsha.
MANCHANG, southwest of Beijing, is the site of a cave mausoleum.
  • Liu Sheng and his wife Dou Wan's tombs were discovered in 1968 and laid undisturbed since 113 BCE. This cave mausoleum contained thousands of burial objects, including 6 chariots, 2 jade burial suits, a gilded bronze palace lantern, and gold and silver acupuncture needles. Liu Sheng's tomb was a palace for the after-life.

Many more Han royal and aristocratic burial sites have been excavated and their extraordinary relics are on view in museums throughout China. 

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This bronze 'flying horse' was excavated in 1969 from the tomb of an army general dating to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE). On view in the Gansu Provincial Museum.

Pictured at top are in-situ pottery figures from the Yangling Mausoleum in Xi'an.

 


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