Mausoleum of Music —— The Marquis of the Zeng State and His Underground Orchestra
A mausoleum, which was then named Leigudun No.1 Tomb, was unearthed in May of 1978 in Suizhou, Hubei. This mausoleum belongs to a man named Yi who rule the Zeng State in the early Warring State Period. He was granted the position of Marquis and was dead and buried no earlier than 433B.C. Since the term “Zeng Hou Yi (the Marquis Yi of the Zeng State)” was seen several times in the inscriptions on objects from his tomb, he is usually called Zeng Hou Yi and his mausoleum is then called the Zeng Hou Yi Mausoleum.
This grand four-chamber mausoleum has been buried for 2400 years. 15404 objects have
been unearthed from these chambers which add up to a total area of 220 square meters. Among these splendid objects, there is indeed an orchestra consist of chime stones, Qin, Se, panpipes Chi and the world’s largest and heaviest bronze chimes. There are also oceans of jade ware and lacquer ware that, despite their daily usage, were designed most delicately and unique.
As one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the 20th century China, the Zeng Hou Yi mausoleum makes is possible for historians to recover the daily life in the Pre-Qin Period and the traditional ritual system that was strictly followed by ancient aristocrats. This discovery updated our understanding about South China in Pre-Qin Period and makes up a great part in the history of Chinese music.
Today, these precious objects are exhibited in one of Hubei Provincial Museum’s most important exhibition halls. Standing in a hall like this, we may get a glimpse of how ancient
Chinese pursued that eternity of soul in their mortal lives by creating delicate art with advanced techniques. Meanwhile, they expressed their admiration and fear for the gods, and their high hopes for life.
Chimes bells were first made in the West Zhou and they remained to be a kind of important musical instruments through Spring and Autumn to the Qin and the Han Dynasty.These percussions were usually hung on a frame and were arranged by their sizes, which suggest their tunes.
65 chime bells were discovered from the Zeng Hou Yi mausoleum, including 19 Niu bells, 45 Yong bells and a Bo bell.The chime bells make all the semitones in five and a half octaves. They play in today’s C major and the tonic train can be alternated. They can be played in platonic, or diatonic scale.
Chimes stones were invented in the late primitive period. Their sound is not resounding as
that of chime bells yet chime stones sound brighter and clearer. In the Shang Dynasty, people started to use chime stones and chime bells as dominate instrument and the two went into great popularity in court music in the Zhou Dynasty.
32 chime stones were unearthed from the Zeng Hou Yi mausoleum. These chimes are
polished marble or granite pieces with broken-line upper edges and curving bottom edges.
Most of them are marked with numbers and musical alphabet. Each piece is one musical
scale and all 32 pieces are arranged by pitch. Together they make scales that cover more
than two octaves, each of 12 semitones.
Jian stands for “holding up” in traditional Chinese. Jian drum is a combination of a drum and a pillar that goes through the drum and fixes it to the drum base. This drum base used to support a pillar and a drum. In the center of the base is a cylindrical slot for the drum pillar. Around the slot intertwined 16 dragons, each inlaid with calaite. On these dragons there are countless smaller dragons twining together. Looking from distance, the base resembles a fire; looked closer, the dragons seem to have been awakened by the drumming.
This is a set of wine vessels that is consist of a bronze Pan and a bronze Zun. Zun was used to contain wine and Pan to contain ice. They are individual pieces yet designed to be a perfect match. Since this wine set was not made for practical uses, the functional parts are covered in delicate decorations. On the surface of the Zun, there are four dragons that are made of hollowed-out texture. Decorations as these transforms the daily objects into art.
The complicated texture that forms the decorations on these artifacts is actually tiny sculptures of Hui (a kind of dragon which lives in water). These Hui are made by techniques that are rather advanced at the time. To make these entwining bronze Hui, a wax model was made first. Then the model was covered with fireproof material (such as clay) and via heating, the wax melted and was poured out, thus a mold was made. Then melted copper was put into the mold to make a decorating part that was at last attached to the vessel.
Jian is a water container. Fou is a wine vessel. In the early Warring States Period, distilled
liquor was yet to be invented. To prevent brewed wine from going bad, people would put ice in Jian and place a wine-filled Fou in the Jian. Both Jian and Fou are square and decorated with dragon patterns. To fix the Jian to the Fou, three hooks were made on the bottom of the Jian to be connected to the three holes on the Fou. Usually, a filter would also be used to eliminate the sediment.
Ding was a cooking vessel. Ding was first made in Neo-Stone Age from clay. Later on people started to make Ding with bronze, which were mostly used as ritual vessels. Sheng Ding was a kind of Ding mostly used to offer meat to the gods. Ding was usually used in a set. The tradition for ceremonies is that an odd number of Ding were used in match with an even number of Gui. The number of these vessels were considered to have ritual meaning. The more vessels a man could use in ceremony, the higher social status he had. The weight of the vessels also indicates a man’s political power. Only the supreme ruler could use nine Ding and eight Gui when offering sacrifice to the heaven.
Huo is a cooking pot. This Huo Ding, buried with a shovel-shaped ladle, was found containing cooked cow bones. On the Huo Dingare three hoof-shape legs and two top handles. When it was unearthed, a pair of hooks was found hanging on the handles. These hooks are supposed to be hung to the sides when the Huo Ding needs to be moved around.
Dou is a goblet-shaped food container that usually used to contain meat sauce and preserved vegetables. In the Neolithic Age people used clay Dou and in the Shang Dynasty bronze Dou came into the scene. When used as a kind of ritual vessel, there are strict rules about the number of Dou that should be used by different people on different occasions.
This bronze Dou is decorated with patterns of phoenixes and dragons with heads of birds.
The decoration has recognizable Warring State Period features: patterns were first carved on the vessel, then gems and lacquer were inlaid into the patterns; at last the whole vessel was polished so it would have a glamorous glow.
Ancient Chinese used to sit on mats. To keep mats in place, heavy artefacts called Zhen were put on the four corners of the mat. Near the main coffin of the Zeng Hou Yi Mausoleum, four hemispheric bronze Zhen were unearthed. They are hollowed and its top is decorated with a dragon-shaped knob hooked with a ring. Eight dragons intertwin and fourteen small rings are cast onto each Zhen.
This is a grill plate attached to a coal burner by four claw-shaped legs. On each side of the
plate there is a chain. When unearthed, there are remains of fish bones in the plate and on its bottom there are traces of smoke and burning.There are 13 vent holes on the plate. The wear and tear suggests that the grill plate and burner was often used and its owner was
probably a gourmet.
This Ji is consist of three Ge and three Mao. On three Ge blades there are inscriptions of
“Zeng Hou Yi Zhi Yong Ji”(Ji belongs to the Marquis Yi of the Zeng State). On the back of the top blade, there is an inscription of a dragon and a beast that looks like the character “Zeng”. It was probably the state heraldry of the Zeng State.
This Ji consists of a long shaft, three Ge blades and a Mao (spear) blade. The long shaft is
called Bi in Chinese. Bi is usually a 300-440 cm long wood shaft covered with bamboo pieces, yarned with silk threads, leather slices or rattan peels and painted with lacquer. Bi is light and pliable, usually used to assemble weapons that used in chariot battles.
A Wei was used to attach wheels to the axle on a chariot in the Shang and Zhou Dynasty.
76 Wei were unearthed from the Zeng Hou Yi mausoleum, indicating 38 chariots.
Among them there are two pieces in special shape. A spear blade is attached to the functional part of each Wei, so to keep away enemy’s chariot and foot soldiers.
Hubei Provincial Museum