Prince Zhuang of Liang - Ritual Items and Weapons

Ceremonials of the Great Ming Dynasty

By Hubei Provincial Museum

Hubei Provincial Museum

Gold IngotsHubei Provincial Museum

When a prince of the Ming dynasty married, the royal court was expected to give a wedding gift. This gift included one gold ingot 52 liang (about 92 oz) in weight. Two such ingots were discovered in Prince Zhuang's tomb, indicating he had married twice. One of the ingots tells us that its gold did not come from China.

The gold in this ingot came from "西洋", the western ocean, a term used in Ming times to refer to areas to the west of the South China Sea, including the Indian Ocean and its surrounding regions. From the third year of the reign of the Yongle emperor (1405) to the eighth year of the reign of the Xuande emperor (1433), the Ming emperors sent out seven naval expeditions to the western ocean, lead by the eunuch Zhang He. These great fleets voyaged to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and even the coast of Africa, greatly enhancing exchanges between the Ming dynasty and the states in these regions.

On July 17th, in the seventh year of the reign of Yongle (1419), Zheng He brought his fifth expedition back from the western ocean. This inscription tells us that the gold used to cast this ingot was purchased by Zheng He's fleet in the western ocean. To date, this is the only relic with an inscription relating to Zheng He's voyages ever found.

CapHubei Provincial Museum

The ceremonial caps of ancient emperors featured Liu (旒) or tassels of jade beads hanging from the front and back. After the Ming abrogated the customs of the Mongolian Yuan dynasty and restored the ceremonial practices set out in the Rites of Zhou, the emperor's cap was designed with 12 tassels on both the front and back, while the crown prince and other princes had 9 tassels on each side, each of which had 9 beads.

Time had already destroyed the cloth top and circumference of the cap found in the tomb of Prince Zhuang, leaving only 140 gold and jade adornments. This is a recreation of the cap based on the cap found in the tomb of Prince Huang of Lu in Zou County, Shandong Province.

Pibian CapHubei Provincial Museum

Ming society strictly regulated the use of hats and clothing. The lowest classes could only wear a green cloth wrapped around their heads, while commoners could wear a mesh cap or skullcap. Officials were required to wear a Wusha (black gauze) cap or Sifang Pingding (square) cap, while Pibian (leather) caps were reserved for nobles on ceremonial occasions. In earlier times, Pibian caps were made from buckskin, but in Ming times they were made from black yarn covering a bamboo frame. Each seam was stitched with beads of five colors. The emperor's Pibian cap had 12 seams, while princes' caps had 9.

When Prince Zhuang's tomb was opened, his Pibian cap had deteriorated, leaving only 134 golf and jade beads. This Pibian is a reconstruction based on the cap found in the tomb of Prince Huang of Lu.

Gold-plated Silver Tablets (1433)Hubei Provincial Museum

These gold tablets confer the rank of princess of Prince Zhuang's wife. They also serve as a marriage certificate for members of the royal family. These were the first tablets made for the marriage of a prince discovered in China. They contain 88 characters that state that, in 1433, the emperor selected the virtuous lady Wei Fei to marry his younger brother Prince Zhuang of Liang. The emperor wishes her to manage the family well and help Prince Zhuang revitalize the realm.

Greenish-white Jade Gui with Plain SurfaceHubei Provincial Museum

Gui (圭) a ceremonial tablet with pointed top make their first appearance in the Neolithic age. They gradually became an important ritual instrument used by emperors and nobles during court functions, sacrifices, and funerals. This object symbolizes the status and authority of its owner.

Three uninscribed Gui were found in the tomb of Prince Zhuang, all of greenish-white jade. One Gui was found in the hands of the price, and the other two spares were placed in a lacquered box designed for jade Gui.

Greenish-white Jade Gui with Grain TextureHubei Provincial Museum

This grain-patterned jade Gui belonged to the Lady Wei, wife of Prince Zhuang. It was both an engagement gift and an essential ritual item she would have used during important events. Both sides of the Gui are carved to create protrusions in a grain pattern, symbolizing abundance of wealth and offspring.

Painted Iron HelmetHubei Provincial Museum

This is a prince's helmet. The entire helmet would have been wrapped in linen and painted red. A cover of 12 iron bars was welded inside. The character "勇", meaning bravery, was painted on the front in gold powder.

Iron Knife with Gold LocketHubei Provincial Museum

This iron knife was one of the funerary objects buried with Prince Zhuang. It was originally housed in a wood and leather scabbard, but this had already decayed when the tomb was opened. All that remains of the scabbard is a gold locket ornament that would have adorned its top. Such ornaments might also be used at the connection of hilt and blade.

Iron Knife with Gold Locket - DetailHubei Provincial Museum

The pommel of the sword is decorated with a majestic dragon wreathed in clouds.

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Hubei Provincial Museum

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