The story appears on

Page A16

July 21, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sunday » Now and Then

Archeological site fit for a king

WHILE the Terracotta Warriors in the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province are more well known, the chariot and horse mausoleum of the King of Chu State (1115-223 BC) in Hubei Province is a worthy rival.

The mausoleum covers almost 150,000 square meters at Xiongjiazhong (the Graveyard of Xiong’s Family) Relics Museum in Chuandian Town, Jingzhou.

Showcasing the splendid ancient Chu culture during the Spring and Autumn Warring States Period (770-221 BC), it is the biggest in scale and the most well preserved tomb of a King of Chu.

From a small tribe banished to the south along the Yangtze River to the biggest power among the states of Qi, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin, Chu has a history of 800 years.

The king’s tomb, constructed about 200 years earlier than the life-size Terracotta Army sculptures, was filled with real chariots and horses.

The poisoned horses, whose bones are clear to see, were arranged and aligned in a vivid and meticulous way.

The exhibition hall for the chariots and horses, built on the original archeological site, covers an area of more than 8,200 square meters. A total of 40 pits have been excavated.

The No. 1 pit, more than 130 meters long and 12 meters wide, is the largest of its kind in China.

Two thirds of the pit has been revealed, displaying a total of 43 buried chariots and 164 horses.

Among them, there are seven two-horse-carriage chariots, 33 four-horse-carriage chariots and three six-horse-carriage chariots.

This showcases the rigid hierarchy of the warring states period.

Theoretically only the emperor of the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) could have a chariot drawn by six horses.

But in reality the emperor had no power, and the country split into the Seven Warring States.

The King of Chu State, equivalent to a duke, or a feudal lord under the emperor of the Zhou Dynasty, would definitely not have been allowed to have a six-horse chariot.

But the discovery of one in the tomb showed the contempt of the King of Chu for the titular emperor and his ambition to seize ultimate power.

There is still one third left to be excavated and studied in the No. 1 pit.

Based on the tomb’s axial symmetry, it is estimated to contain a total of 66 chariots and 258 horses.

In the west of the No. pit, there are 38 smaller pits containing chariots and horses in two lines.

The leading chariot drawn by two horses in the No. 33 pit was found to have dozens of jadeware, gem stones and gold-foil decorations, indicating the mausoleum was constructed when the Chu State was at its peak. The main body of the mausoleum is the tomb of the King of Chu, which was partly destroyed during the 1960s and 1970s when a canal system was constructed.

The current excavation found a passage, 33 metes long, leading to a main chamber of 400 square meters. More than 90 smaller tombs were discovered to the south of the king’s.

Thirty-six have been excavated and were found to contain more than 1,000 jade pieces.

Four tombs are in a line, each one about 47 meters long, 3.3 meters wide and 4.7 meters deep. The relics of coffins and human bones were found inside.

Bronze swords were discovered to the south of the 16th line’s tombs. To its north, experts dug out large amounts of jadeware.

In the No. 72 tomb, there were dog bones, alongside the coffin.

The Chu State relocated its capital to Jinan in today’s Jingzhou from BC 689. It was occupied and fell into the Qin State in BC 278.

Experts are yet to determine who this magnificent mausoleum was built for.

Judging from the bronze parts of the chariots and the decorative patterns of the jadeware, the tomb was constructed in the early years of the warring states period.

According to the Xiong’s royal family’s linage, experts deduced that it might be King Hui of Chu or King Zhao of Chu, under whose reigns the state was at the height of its prosperity.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend