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Encounter Han Dynasty Treasures at the China Institute

Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou presents an array of artifacts originating from royal tombs dating from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 8 CE).

Dreams of the Kings - China Institute
Jade burial suit with gold thread. Collection of the Xuzhou Museum.

At the China Institute in New York City, Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou presents an array of artifacts originating from royal tombs dating from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 8 CE). The exhibition includes more than 76 objects which are on view in the U.S. for the first time. Ranging from terra cotta performers to carved stone animal sculptures, the objects are an extraordinary testimony to the customs and beliefs surrounding life and death during the Western Han Dynasty, one of China’s golden eras.

The first emperor of the Han Dynasty knighted his younger brother as the first king of the Chu Kingdom, which was centered in today’s Xuzhou. Ruling under the emperor’s protection, elites in this Kingdom enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Twelve generations of kings lived, died, and were buried in sumptuous tombs carved into the nearby rocky hills. Although many of the tombs were looted over the years, numerous treasures were discovered in later excavations testifying to the Chu kings’ affluence as well as their beliefs in immortality and the afterlife.

One of the most stunning finds was an elaborate jade burial suit, which was designed to protect and glorify a king in the afterlife. The shroud was assembled from thousands of pieces of jade, a precious stone adored by the Chinese since the Neolithic period as an auspicious material that could ensure immortality.

Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou is open at the China Institute in Lower Manhattan through November 12, 2017.