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Buried Treasures See Light of Day In Chinese Exhibit

Some of the 250 imperial objects from tombs and palaces have never before left China

Burying a Chinese emperor nearly 2,400 years ago was not an easy task. Selection of a location, architecture, and even the personal belongings to be buried with the emperor began as soon as the emperor came to the throne.

Today, deciding how to display those unearthed personal belongings is an equally formidable task.

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More than 250 individual artifacts from the tombs and palaces of China's great rulers are now on exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History.

"The Imperial Tombs of China" presents the country's seven dynasties with art objects dating from 475 BC to AD 1911. Artifacts come from 22 different institutions in China. Many of the funerary and court objects have never left China.

Elaborate burials were customary to Chinese aristocracy. Large tombs held every imaginable possession to provide for the dead as if they were still living. Objects in the Denver exhibit include musical instruments, clothing, weapons, and even sacrificial foods in ceremonial bronze and lacquer vessels.

In the throne room, cast-bronze bells and jade chimes, embroidered silk robes, implements of court life, and a gold-lacquer Dragon Throne greet visitors.

During the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), iron began to replace softer bronze for spear and arrow points and artistic figures.

The Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) is best known for the 8,000 full-size terra-cotta soldiers and horses that have been unearthed.

A jade burial suit from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 221) is displayed within a re-created rock-cut tomb. It is made of 2,007 thin, polished wafers of jade in a variety of shapes and sizes held together with thin gold thread.

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The "golden age" of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) reflected international trade for gold and silver. Metalsmiths and potters, unrivaled in their artistry and craftsmanship, created three-colored ceramic figures to serve as tomb guardians.

A gilt-silver repouss crown and burial mask represent the Liao Kingdom (AD 907-1125). Porcelain, jade, and gold Buddhist reliquary created during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) and 19,000-pound stone lions from the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1912) complete the show.

* 'The Imperial Tombs of China' remains in Denver through March 16. It then travels to its final US stop (the exhibition's US tour includes a total of five venues), the Orlando (Fla.) Museum of Art, May 2 -Sept. 15.

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