2015

The Marquis Yi of Zeng ı Gold and Jade Objects

Hubei Provincial Museum

Dating back to over 2400 years ago

Jade
More than 300 pieces of jade objects are found in the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng.

This piece is a great example of the technique that is more advanced than the simple one-piece technique adopted in the Shang and the Zhou dynasty.This chain is places next to the tomb owner’s skull. It was probably an adornment on his hat. The chain consists of 16 pieces. Among them there are five pair of jade rings. Each pair of rings were carved out of a piece of jade.

The five pair were connected by three operable rings and one jade dowel.


These milk green jade pieces connect with each other and form a jade dragon. On this dragon, there are carved patterns of in total 37 dragons, seven phoenixes and ten snakes. On the 14th joint and the 15 the joint, there are also carved scenes of a phoenix catching a snake.

Bi was a ritual vessel used when offering sacrifice to the heaven. Jade Bi was first used 6000 year ago and in the Shang and the West Zhou Dynasty it became a symbol of status and there were strict rules about the usage of Bi. This Bi was used as adornment, ritual object as well as a symbol of power.

Huang was used to honor gods in the north. Huang was used to honor gods in the north. A theory is that the shape is an imitation of rainbow. The marquis, in his eternal sleep, wears 36 jade Huang, among which there are four pieces like this one on display.

Huang looks like a half of a Bi and a theory is that the shape is an imitation of rainbow. This pair of Huang is connected by three gold wire. This is the only artifact that combines gold and jade in Pre-Qin Period.

This Huang was found inside the inner coffin. It is hollowed out and looks like four dragons intertwining with each other.

The pedant was carved out of a whole piece of jade. It is consist of four connected parts, each with a different theme.

In the Warring States Period, jade was sometimes used as decorations on bronze sword.

This jade sword was found on the marquis’ belt. It is divided into five parts, connected with metal pieces.

Except for the hilt and the hand guard, all other pieces are undecorated, presenting the original texture of the jade.

Most jade found in the Zeng Hou Yi Mausoleum is Calcium magnesium silicates, which is similar to today’s Xinjiang Hetian jade. Most of the jade pieces are places on the tomb owner since they were used when he was alive.

Both farming and collecting depend on weather, especially rain. Therefore, cloud was often used as decoration from the Shang dynasty to the Han dynasty.
These two dragon-shaped Pei were used as a pair. On one side of the dragon, there are cloud patterns and the other side is undecorated.

This Pei (pedant) was unearthed from the inner coffin. One end of this rectangular pedant is in the shape of a bird head. The whole piece is covered in cloud patterns, meaning that the bird is flying through cloud.

On the fluvial plain, people used to hunt and fish in the Warring States Period. Therefore, artifacts with patterns of or in the shape of fish were popular. This fish-shaped jade Pei is a semi-circle ring in the shape of a fish. It is square-edged and has a pointy tail.

Ancient Chinese believe that the sky envelops the square ground like a lid. The shape of Cong follows such opinion. Its outer edge is square and the inner edge is rounded. In the ancient ceremonies, Cong was used to offer sacrifice to the earth.

This Cong was found right under the back of the marquis. Though there is only a half, it is still a recognizable Cong with decorative animal-shaped carvings. This is the first half Cong that ever covered. It was probably a kind of burial object.

This comb was put underneath the marquis’ head. There are 23 plates and the back is carved with cloud patterns and a square star. There is a hole on the comb so it could be tied with a thread. The marquis was buried with this comb so he could keep himself tidy in the underworld.

The ring was first a tool wearing on thumb when pulling a bow, then it became an adornment. This ring was found near the left hand of the marquis. The marquis was probably a left-hander when using bow and arrows.

Han was a burial object that was put in the dead person’s mouth. Ancient Chinese believed that if people are buried with a piece of jade in their mouth, they would continue to enjoy what they had when they were alive. It is also believe that jade keeps the body from rotting. In the East Zhou Dynasty, jade Han were usually in the shape of animals.

In the mouth and skull of the marquis, 21 jade pieces have been found. Despite that they are as tiny as rice or beans, these Han are delicately carved. Even the fins on the jade fish are clearly visible.

Gold Objects
Many gold objects are found in the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng.

This gold container is among the largest and the heaviest gold objects that were made before the Qin Dynasty. Its lid and edge are decorated with patterns of Panchi (snake-shaped dragons), ropes and thunderclouds. A gold colander was put in the container.Its hollowed-out part is an abstract pattern of two dragons playing with one ball.

The gold Zhen (lid) were placed under the coffin. Between them there are other 2 gold containers and among the 4 gold objects there are 4 bronze Zhen. No commonly recognized explanation has been made about the placement of these objects.

These gold spring were found twined on 2 of the spindle-shaped wood pieces that were placed on 2 lacquered gasket on a wood table in the east tomb chamber. On the 2 wood pieces there are in total 462 springs, each is 2 centimeters long and weighs 1.4 grams. The diameter of one gold wire is merely 0.5 centimeters and all the springs are quite soft. The function of these springs remains unknown.

Glass beads
The colored glass objects are called "Liao Qi" in ancient China.

173 glass beads were unearthed from the Zeng Hou Yi Mausoleum. They are made of soda-lime glass. These beads are similar to glass beads that were made in the West. These beads prove that Chinese people already made glass as early as in the Shang dynasty.

On the surface of the beads painted patterns that look like eyes of dragonflies. Every “eye” is a group of concentric circles. They are mostly painted in orange, brown and blue. Dragonflies were believed to have great eye sight and capable of keeping away bad luck.
These beads could be worn separately or be made into a necklace.

Hubei Provincial Museum
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