The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

Jade Burial Suit

JadeBurialSuit

The Jade Burial Suit is a ceremonial suit made of pieces of jade in which royal members in Han dynasty China were buried. This Jade shroud was for Liu Xiu, King of Zhongshan. The pieces of jade are mostly rectangular or square in shape and joined by means of gold wire threaded through small holes drilled near the corners of each piece.

The type of wire used was dependent on the status of the person buried. The jade burial suits of emperors used gold thread; princes, princesses, dukes, and marquises, silver thread; sons or daughters of those given silver thread, copper thread; and lesser aristocrats, silk thread, with all others being forbidden to be buried in jade burial suits.

This Jade Burial Suit is made from a green jade with impurities showing as coloured patches. The suit is made up of over 1,200 jade disks tied with 2,567 gold threads. The suit is made up of five sections: the head, jacket, trousers, shoes and gloves. There is a round disk of jade on the crown of the head, and the face and nose parts are made of a convex shape. The glove sections are fist shaped.

A jade burial suit was extremely expensive and only wealthy aristocrats could afford to be buried in them. The process of manufacturing a suit was labour-intensive and is estimated to have required several years to complete a single suit.

For centuries, it was believed that the jade burials were just a legend. It was hard to imagine that the rulers were so wealthy, they could cover their bodies with precious jade. However, in 1968 researchers announced the discovery of a tomb as described in old texts. It is now believed that jade burial suits were relatively common among the wealthiest aristocrats of the Han Dynasty, but that over the years most have been lost due to the activities of grave robbers.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                   Jade Burial Suit
  • Year:                   206 BC- AD 8
  • Period:               Han Dynasty
  • Findsite:            Bajiaolangcun, Dingxian, Hebei Province, China
  • Discovered:      1973
  • Material:            Jade burial suit laced with gold thread
  • Dimensions:      Length 182 cm, Width at shoulders 49 cm
  • Museum:           The National Museum of China

~~~

“It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.” Chinese Proverb

~~~

_________________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: 1)Wng at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons