Museum of Nanyue King – The Mausoleum Relics: Part 3 The War Lord

The grandfather of the owner of the tomb was an accomplished warlord, having served under Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor that unified China. Zhao Tuo was sent to conquer the area known as Nanyue, and he never left.

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.

南越赵姓王 Nanyue and Zhao kings.

赵佗在龙川任县令时所开掘的水井,称为越王井 The well dug by Zhao Tuo when he was the county magistrate in Longchuan, now called Yuewangjing.

In 206 BC, Zhao Tuo 赵陀 (240-137 BC), a Qin general stationed in the area taking advantage of the civil war that ensure after collapsed of the Qin Dynasty, declared the area the Kingdom of Nanyue 南越国. He made himself the emperor 南越武帝 with the capital at Panyu 番禺. His long life (he died at 103 years old) meant that he outlived his sons. The Nanyue Kingdom was assimilated into the Han Dynasty, but Zhao Tuo was allowed to keep Nanyue as a vassal state.

The King’s Army

Zhao Tuo’s successor was his grandson, Zhao Mo 赵眜 (176-125 BC). The tomb was at first thought be Zhao Yao’s, but because of the seals uncovered, we came to the conclusion that it was Zhao Mo that was buried in there. That’s why most of the items in the tomb was burial goods according to a Han king’s standards for burial. Although he was not a military king, hence was posthumously named Emperor Wen 南越文帝, he was buried with symbols of his supreme command of the troops of Nanyue.

错金铭文铜虎节 The Tiger-shaped Jie (Token) with Gold Inlay Inscription

错金铭文铜虎节 The Tiger-shaped Jie (Token) with Gold Inlay Inscription

This bronze Jie was moulded flat into the shape of a squatting tiger, with its mouth widely opened and tail curled into the shape of the numeral eight (8). Its body was embellished with golden plates as tiger stripes. In the middle of the body, there is an inscription saying “The King’s Orders to Muster the Troops” “王命=(命)車馹”.

“Jie” was a token in ancient China held by the messenger to mobilise military vehicles and soldiers. The jie unearthed from the tomb has its roots in Chu 楚culture in terms of writing and decoration. It is the only tiger die with inlaid gold inscription found so far.

铁铠单 Iron Armour

铁铠单 Iron Armour

The length of the armour is 49 cm and it is made up of 709 iron sheets fastened by silk threads. This armour suit was made with no helmet, no sleeves and no collar. It is similar in style with the armor suits worn by the Qin cavalry in the Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of Qin. The suit was well designed for protection yet flexible enough to let the person wearing it move freely.

铁剑 Iron Swords

Ten iron swords were discovered at the sides of the king’s corpse. Each sword is more than one meter in length, which indicated these iron weapons were used in ritual way. Five of the ten swords are inlaid with jade ornaments.

砺石 Whetstones

砺石 Whetstones

砺石 Whetstones were found together with bronze swords.

铜剑 Bronze Sword

Chu-style bronze sword 楚式铜剑

This Chu-style sword 楚式剑 is a bronze sword, 49.3 cm long and came with a wooden scabbard that has fully rotten when unearthed.

兵器车马 Weapons and Chariots

Bronze weapons were widely used in Han dynasty. Nearly half of the unearthed weapons are made from iron, reflecting the wide usage of such a kind in the kingdom.

铜矛 Bronze Spear

Among the weaponry excavated from the tomb, swords, spears and lances for hand-to-hand combat are made of bronze.

铜戟 Bronze Lances

戟 Lances

The ji was a Chinese polearm, sometimes translated into English as lance, though they are fundamentally different weapons. They were used in one form or another for over 3000 years.

弩机与箭镞 The Crossbows and Arrows

弩机与箭镞 The Crossbows and Arrows

The crossbow has a bronze trigger mechanism. A viewfinder 望山 on the crossbow is used to take aim. A tooth like projection retains the string. When the trigger 悬刀 is pulled, it releases the tooth which rotates forward freeing the string.

铜弩机 Crossbows

铜弩机 Crossbows

15 crossbows were unearthed from the tomb and 9 of them equipped with a toothed mechanism to increase the range of the bolt.

铜箭镞 (zú) Arrows

铜箭镞 (zú) Arrows

933 arrows were unearthed from the tomb of 4 types and in 7 forms. Some of them feature inverted small hooks or blood reservoirs, and some are poisoned.

铅弹丸 Lead Shots

铅弹丸 Lead Shots

541 lead shots are from the tomb in two sizes, which are heavier than stone ones and more destructive. There is no evidence of the weapon used to discharge these shots. Firearms are not introduced to China until the 10th century during the Song dynasty.

车马仪仗 Chariots

Chariot Model (Modern Replica after Qin Originals), Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.). Bronze with pigments, H. 59 in. (150 cm). Photo: Courtesy Qin Shihuangdi Mausoleum Site Museum, Lintong

Real vehicles and living horses were usually buried by vassals as funeral objects in the Han dynasty, while here found some ornamental chariots and harness. There is one model of chariot unearthed from the mausoleum, but only the metallic components are left.

In the outer coffin, the antechamber and western chamber, the bronze components and ornaments of chariots were also found. They are decorated with gold-plating and silver-inlay.

错银铜伞柄箍 Umbrella Pole for the Chariot

错银铜伞柄箍 Umbrella Pole for the Chariot

The umbrella pole is well decorated with inlaid silver and gold. There were 8 pieces unearthed from the tomb.

盖弓帽 Ornaments of the Carriage

盖弓帽 Ornaments of the Carriage

These were ornaments on the umbrella of the chariot. A total of 192 bronze pieces and 6 silver pieces were unearthed.

Seven sided dais

Although totally unrelated, the umbrella on the altar for the Sagrada Familia would give you an idea what these ornaments are for.

鎏金圆筒形衡末式、圆箍形铜锏、鎏金铜车軎(wèi) Ornaments, Iron Rings and End Piece of Axle

Parts of the chariots were uncovered in the tomb, however it was unknown if the entire chariot was place in there or just parts. Six rings were found in the antechamber and main coffin chamber. Also found were ornaments that include a pair of knobs with gilded gold, and 2 sets of end-pieces that were to fasten the axle of the chariot.

马匹妆式 Ornaments of the Horse Harness

马匹妆式 Ornaments of the Horse

The group comprises circular ornaments, each cast with two intertwined serpents, the back with four small loops; a larger circular ornament cast with intertwined dragons, the back with four small loops; and a pair of trefoil ornaments with bird-tail projections, the back with three loops.

蟠龙纹仪仗鎏金铜饰 Gold-plated Ornaments of Ceremonial Wands

蟠龙纹仪仗鎏金铜饰 Gold-plated Ornaments of Ceremonial Wands

The wands employed for the guard of honour were found in the pathway of the tomb, most likely brought along by the two guardians whose remains were found there. They symbolised the majesty of the king. The wooden handles have decayed and only the bronze ornaments on the top and the Dui (support holder) at the bottom remain.

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

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