In 1968, two complete jade burial suits were discovered in the tomb of Han Prince Liu Sheng and Princess Dou Wan in Mancheng, Hebei, China. They were the first of a number of jade suits that would be found in other Han tombs around China. The Han Dynasty is the only time in Chinese history that they have been utilised in burials.
The Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) was one of the longest of China’s major dynasties. With only minor interruptions it lasted a span of over four centuries and was considered a golden age in Chinese history especially in arts, politics and technology.
- Today jade suits seem an implausible extravagance, but in ancient China they were believed to preserve the body.
- The honour of burial in a jade suit was restricted to the Imperial family and nobles.
- Even the thread that bound the pieces together (gold, silver, copper or silk) denotes their status.
- Jade was also treasured for its hardness, durability and subtle beauty.
This suit is on display at the Museum of Chinese Australian History at 22 Cohen Place, in the heart of Melbourne’s thriving Chinatown. Established in 1985, the museum occupies 5 floors of an old warehouse and contains artifacts relating to Chinese Australian history, the Victorian gold rush, a Dragon Gallery and other special exhibitions.
“Is It Art?”