Museum of Nanyue King – The Mausoleum Relics: Part 2 Other Chambers

Besides the Main Coffin Room 主棺室, the tomb of Nanyue King has six other rooms stacked with artefacts. Two other rooms, the East Side Room 东侧室 where the concubines were buried and Antechamber 前室, were really interesting.

所有文物皆是“西汉南越国时期 1983年南越文王墓出土 南越王博物院藏”,除非另外提示。 All artefacts are from the Nanyue period of the Western Han Dynasty (203-111BC), excavated in 1983 from the tomb of the King Wen of Nanyue, Museum of the King of Nanyue Collection, unless otherwise indicated.

墓中殉人 Sacrificial Victims

Positions of the bodies (human sacrifices) in the Tomb

Fifteen human sacrificial victims were found in the mausoleum. Judging by their seals and other burial accessories, four of them were concubines, one was an officer (“Officer of Jingxiang” 景巷令), one musician, two guards and seven were servants. They are important for the study of funeral, official and court institutions of the Nanyue Kingdom.

They were discovered together with over 1,000 pieces of artefacts that included objects for rituals, weapons, ornaments for horses and carriages, objects for daily use, gold and silver wares, medicines, jade objects, and silk fabrics, such as the gold-inlay ornaments for horses and carriages, tiger-shaped tally, the painted bronze mirrors, the bronze mirrors with a stand, many sets of jade sword ornaments and a box of ink pellets, and over 70 pieces of iron tools in different shapes. Most of the objects, piled up to 3 or 4 layers, were put in lacquer boxes, cases or bamboo chests wrapped in silk fabrics.

东侧室 East Side Room

Four concubines were buried in this room next to the Main Coffin Room. Each was in a lacquer coffin with seals and jade jewellery, bronze mirrors and some funeral objects. The wooden coffins were all rotten given the humid and hot climate of Lingnan, only the grave goods remained that gave us clues to who they were.

右夫人 赵蓝 “Right Concubine” Zhao Lan

Emperor and Queen were buried in different tombs according to Qin and Han burial customs, which implies that the Right Concubine 右夫人 is not the queen.

“右大人璽”龟钮金印 Turtle-shaped Gold Seal of “Right Concubine”

“赵蓝”象牙印 Pyramid-shped Ivory Seal of “Zhao Lan”

Seals of the Right Concubine

“Right Concubine” 右夫人 was buried with several exquisite objects, a gold seal with the inscription “Seal of Lady Right” 右夫人璽, an ivory seal with the name “Zhao Lan” 赵蓝, and two sets of jade jewellery.

This ivory seal withe name “Zhao Lan” (right) was found together with the gold seal of “the Right Concubine”. It may have been the personal seal of the Right Concubine whose family name was assumed from the King.

右大人组玉佩 (A) Jade Jewellery of “Right Concubine” (set A)

The first concubine, aka “Right Concubine” 右夫人 or Zhao Lan 赵蓝, had two sets of jade jewellery that she used to wear in front of her chest. Here is the first set. It consists of 20 components in 3 materials: jade, gold, and glass.

The formation is very complicated. From the top to the bottom: a Double Dragon jade pendant, two jade rings, a whirlpool-veined disc with triple phoenix pattern, a glass bead, ten gold beads, five jade Huang. No other set of jewellery in the tomb is more elegant than this one, except that of the Nanyue King.

韘(shè)形佩饰 Jade Ornament with Ring

This is an archer’s ring wore on the thumb.

There are seven such jade ornaments unearthed from the tomb, while five on top of the jade suit of the Nanyue King and one in a jade set of a concubine. This jade ornament is a single piece. It is decorated with unique bird pattern which makes it different from the others.

Other Concubines

Together with Right Concubine, there were three other concubines that were buried together in the chamber.

夫人鎏金铜印 The Gilt Bronze Seal of the Concubines

(In order from the left) “Seal of Lady Left”, “Seal of Lady Tai”, “Seal of Lady (Bu)”

Other seals were all made of gilt bronze with the inscriptions “Seal of Lady Left” 左夫人印, “Seal of Lady Tai” 泰夫人印 and “Seal of Lady (Bu)” 【部】夫人印. Seals of the three additional concubines are similar in size, quality, carving skill and characters. They might have been specially made for the funeral of the three concubines.

左夫人组玉佩 Jade Jewellery of “Lady Left”

It is made up of seven pieces One of the pendants is carved into a floral bud On one side of the bud is perched with an openwork phoenix

【部】夫人组玉佩 Jade Jewellery of “Lady (Bu)”

The jewellery was found beside the seal of Concubine (Bu), so it was assumed to belong her. It is made up of five pieces. The second pendant is crudely carved with a dancing figure with one arm raised over the head, the other is placed across the waist.

泰夫人组玉佩 Jade Jewellery of Lady Tai

It consists of four pieces. The second piece is an openwork dise with design of intertwining pairs of dragons and phoenixes.

东侧室夫人组玉佩(F组)Jade Jewellery of a concubine (Set F)

Found in north-western part of the East Side Room, the jewellery consists of one arched pendant and three discs. Jade “Bi” disc is called “玉壁” in Chinese. It served religious purposes in ancient China for worshipping the sky. It was also used as ornament that symblized high social status. And jade “Huang” pendant is called “玉璜” in Chinese. It is an arc-shaped jade artefact that was used as a pendant in a jade “Pei” ornament set (組玉佩), which would be worn from the belt. The pendant set would emit a faint pleasant sound as the wearer walked, in line with the customs of Confucian etiquette.

夫人组玉佩(G组)Jade Pendant Set of a Concubine (Set G)

The jade pendant set includes five pieces of jade, which are jade Bi with cereal-shape pattern, jade Peiwith hollow cloud patter, jade Huang in dragon shape, jade wang with hooked thunder pattern. and jade Huang with spiral pattern. The jade Pei hollowed with 8 groups of opposite rolling cloud pattern. With great craftsmanship, the jade Huang has a turning-around dragon head in openwork at each end. Unearthed from the East Side Chamber, the jade pendant belongs to a concubine.

夫人无字印 Seals without Inscriptions

夫人无字印 Seals without Inscriptions

They were found in the East Side Room. Just like the ones found in the Main Coffin Chamber, they may have had ink inscriptions (waiting to be carved) that disappeared later, or they may have been originally uncarved.

前室 The Antechamber

The antechamber acts as the front courtyard of the tomb, and if it is in real life, this would be where the guests would be received and entertained. The remains of an officer was found here. The officer was “Officer of Jingxiang” 景巷令 for the seal that was found beside him.

“景巷令”组玉佩 Jade Jewellery of the “Officer of Jingxiang”

This set, made up of seven jades and a bronze ring, was found in the Antechamber. It belonged to the Officer of Jingxiang 景巷令, or referred to as “Officer of Yongxiang” 永巷令 in many other instances..

There are two main types of Officer of Yongxiang. One is the official of the palace and serves the emperor, and the other is the official of the imperial household and is usually a eunuch.

“景巷令印” 鱼钮铜印 Bronze Seal of “Officer of JingXiang” with Fish Knob

“景巷令印” 鱼钮铜印 Bronze Seal of “Officer of JingXiang” with Fish Knob

“景” Jing and “永” Yong are used interchangeable in Qin and Han calligraphy works.

Unused seal material found near the seal of the official

The Collection of Beautiful Jades

The jade artefacts unearthed in the Tomb of the Nanyue Kingdom prove an outstanding embodiment in Han dynasty. The 224 pieces of jade wares unearthed are featured in large quantity, diversified items, unique design and fine workmanship. Besides the jade used for burial and ritual, there are 140 pieces (sets) decorative jade including Jades Vessels, Jade Garment Belt Hooks, Jade Ornaments and Sword Ornaments in Jade.

铜承盘高足玉杯 Jade Drinking Cup for Collecting Sweet Dew

铜承盘高足玉杯 Jade Drinking Cup for Collecting Sweet Dew

The cup is composed of three parts a green jade goblet, a jade support with the gold head and silver body of a swaying dragon holding petals in its mouth and a bronze tray. The pattern creates a picture of three dragons propping up a vessel, made of five materials: gold, silver, jade, bronze and wood.

鎏金铜框玉盖杯 Bronze Beaker Mounted with Jade Plaques

鎏金铜框玉盖杯 Bronze Beaker Mounted with Jade Plaques

The frame of the bronze beaker has an outer ring on the cover inlaid with gilded bronze, mounted with 8 pieces of rectangular jade patches and a heart-shaped support. This is a practical piece of art revealing the consummation and maturity of the inlaying technology of the Han Dynasty.

鎏金铜框玉卮(zhì) Jade Cup (wine vessel) with Bronze Frame

The jade cup is a practical drinking vessel as well as a piece of artwork. The cup body is made up of 9 pieces of sapphire inlaid to a frame of gilded bronze

About Museum of Nanyue King 南越王博物馆 (MNYK)

Officially known as Western Han Museum of the Nanyue King Mausoleum 西汉南越王墓博物馆, MNYK is always on the top list of things to do in Guangzhou for archaeological lovers and Chinese history and culture enthusiasts.

The museum was firstly opened to the public in 1983 and renovated in 2010. Inside the museum, you can find the original site of the tomb, more than 1,000 pieces of rare treasures unearthed from the tomb and a collection of ceramic pillows donated by Mr. Yeung Wing-Tak. Those elegant artefacts will take you to the exquisite life of Nanyue State 2,000 years ago.

Nanyue King Museum 南越王博物馆
Tel : +86 (020) 36182920(王墓展区), +86 (020) 83896501(王宫展区)

Opening Hours: open all year around from 9:00am to 17:30pm (on 28th February and 31st August of every year, it will be closed for maintenance), except every Monday.

Visited Jan 2022

0 comments on “Museum of Nanyue King – The Mausoleum Relics: Part 2 Other Chambers

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: