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This T-shapedpainting,unearthed from the No.1 ofMawangdui Tombs in Changsha, Hunan Province, served as a funeral banner in the Western Han Dynasty (260 BC-9AD). It is more complex in composition and colorful in palette compared with those also discovered in Changsha but date back to the earlier Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC).

It can be divided vertically intofour sections. The top section depictscelestial scenes such as the sun and the moon, deities with human bodies and snake tailsand various auspicious animals. The section right below depicts earthly scenes of the well-dressed graveoccupant, Lady Xinzhui, walking towardsthe guarded Heavenly Gate with the escort of servants.Below where Lady Xinzhui stands is a funeral scene and the bottom section is believed to be scenes of the netherworld, with a naked muscle man standing on two giant auspicious tortoises.

The creator(s) of this silk painting used symbolic images from traditional mythology to describe the widely accepted understanding of heaven and the netherworld, many of which have been handed down even to people of today, such as the toad, white rabbit (Yutu玉兔) and the fairy(Chang’e嫦娥) on the moon and the golden raven(Jinwu金烏) on the sun.

Details

  • Title: T-Shaped Painting on Silk
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 9
  • Provenance: Hunan Provincial Museum
  • Physical format: painting,205h x (92upper,47.7lower)w cm
  • Medium: colors on silk
  • Dynastic period: Western Han Dynasty

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