Mawangdui, Han Tombs

Last updated by  at 2013-11-3

Mawangdui, Han Tombs

Mawangdui is an archaeological site located in Changsha, Hunan Province. The site consists of two saddle-shaped hills and contained the tombs of three people from the Western Han Dynasty. The tombs belonged to a noble family, which were the first Marquis of Dai, his wife and their son and excavated from 1972 to 1974. Over 3000 cultural relics and a well-preserved female corpse were unearthed, which attracting wide attention home and abroad. Most of the relics from Mawangdui are displayed at the Hunan Provincial Museum.

Tomb No. 1

The eastern tomb, Tomb no. 1, contained the remains of a woman in her fifties, the first Marquis of Dai’s wife. Her mummified body was so well-preserved that researchers were able to perform an autopsy on her body, which showed that she probably died of a heart attack. Researchers also found honeydew melon seeds in her stomach, inferring consumption right before death. She outlived the occupants of the other two tombs. Her real name was Xinzhui. Xinzhui's tomb was the best preserved tomb in the three tombs in Han tombs. A complete cosmetic set, lacquered pieces and finely woven silk garments with paintings are almost perfectly preserved. Her coffins were painted according to Han customs and beliefs with whirling clouds interwoven with mystical animals and dragons. There was also a silk painting showing a variety of exercises researchers call the forerunner of Tai Chi.

Tomb No. 2

The western tomb, Tomb no. 2, was the burial site of the first Marquis of Dai, Li Cang, who died in 186 B.C. The Han Dynasty had appointed Li Cang as the chancellor of the Kingdom of Changsha. This tomb had been plundered several times by grave robbers.

Tomb No. 3

Tomb no. 3 was directly south of Tomb no. 1, and contained the tomb of a man in his thirties who died in 168 BC. The occupant is believed to be the son of Li Cang and Xinzhui. This tomb contained a rich trove of military, medical, and astronomical manuscripts written on silk.

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