Han Tomb of Liu Sheng

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To see archaeologists working on the tomb click here.

Entrance to Liu Sheng's tomb                                 source


The Chinese imperial period began with the unification of China in 221 by the state of Qin and the consolidation of a huge empire under the succeeding Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220).  Consolidating the empire involved not merely geographical expansion, but also bringing together and reconciling the ideas and practices that had developed in the different states.  The new state incorporated elements of Legalism, Daoism, and Confucianism in its ideology but the officials who administered the state came to be identified more and more with Confucian learning.  Reflecting the development of religious practices during the Warring States period, Han art and literature are rich in references to spirits, portents, myths, the strange, and the powerful. 

In 1968 two tombs were found in present-day Mancheng County in Hebei province (review map).  The first undisturbed royal Western Han tombs ever discovered, they belong to the prince Liu Sheng (d. 113 BC), who was a son of Emperor Jing Di, and Liu Sheng's consort Dou Wan.  The structure and layout of the tombs departs from earlier traditions in significant ways.  To see a drawing of Liu Sheng's tomb and learn about its layout,  click here.

Liu Sheng's tomb contained over 2,700 burial objects. Among them, bronze and iron items predominate.  Altogether there were:

419 bronze objects

499 iron objects

21 gold items

77 silver items

78 jade objects

70 lacquer objects

6 chariots (in south side-chamber)

571 pieces of pottery (mainly in north side-chamber)

silk fabric

What do you notice about the number of bronze objects relative to the number of iron ones?


To the left are gold and silver acupuncture needles from Liu Sheng's tomb.  

How do these compare with acupuncture needles today?

Why include acupuncture needles in a tomb?  


Acupuncture needles       Length: 6-7cm      source

To the left is a dagger made of iron.  

Why were weapons increasingly made of iron instead of bronze?

Iron dagger     Length: 36.4cm, Width: 6.4cm                         source




Go on to view some of the objects from this tomb:

Bronze objects

Jade objects