The beauty of national treasures, through ancient and modern times, is magnificent. Behind each rare cultural relic is the ingenuity and wisdom of the ancients, engraved with the cultural genes of the Chinese nation, and witnessing the exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign civilizations. From 2023 March 3, China News Service "East-West Question" has launched the "Treasures of the Town Hall" series of planning (20), through experts to explore the meaning of cultural relics and the stories behind them.
Guangzhou, 3 Mar (ZXS) -- How does "silk and jade clothing" embody the Chinese civilization that values jade?
——Interview with Wang Weiyi, Vice President of the Nanyue King Museum
China News Agency reporter Cheng Jingwei
In 1983, the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue was discovered on a hill called Xianggang in the northern suburbs of Guangzhou, and the unearthing of this tomb is known as one of the five major archaeological discoveries in modern China.
Among the more than 1000,<> pieces (sets) of cultural relics unearthed in the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue, there are many fine and unique products, among which the "silk jade clothing" can be called the "treasure of the town hall" of the Nanyue King Museum. What is unique and rare about this well-formed jade robe, a well-formed jade robe from the Han Dynasty more than <>,<> years ago? What is the important value for understanding the ancient Chinese jade clothing system and the Chinese civilization behind it? A few days ago, Wang Weiyi, vice president of the Nanyue King Museum, was interviewed by the China News Agency's "East-West Question".
The following is a summary of the interview:
China News Agency: What is "silk and jade clothing"?
Wang Weiyi: In the Han Dynasty, jade clothes were the mortuary clothes worn by emperors and high-ranking nobles when they died. Jade clothing is also known as "jade box", although we now call it "clothing", but it itself also has the meaning of "inner coffin". The Han people are superstitious about jade, thinking that jade clothing can make the corpse incorruptible. The silk jade clothes unearthed from the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue are made of 2291,1 pieces of jade pieces, silk strands and linen paste, divided into six parts: head covering, upper body clothing, sleeves, gloves, trousers and shoes, with a total length of 73.<> meters. Jade pieces are mainly rectangular and square, as well as trapezoidal, triangular, pentagonal, etc. The hood, gloves and shoes are made of red silk threaded corners drilled and polished with smooth jade chips, reinforced with silk lining. Most of the jade trunk parts are cut into small jade pieces using waste jade or corner jade, pasted on the linen lining, and then pasted diagonally on the surface with red ribbons, which are very regular and bright.
There are 5 pieces of jade under this jade robe, and there are traces of ribbons around the wall holes on the surface of the jade bi, indicating that the five pieces of jade bi were originally tied together with ribbons. At one end of the glove of the jade coat is a pair of dragon-shaped jade yangs with different shapes, called jade grips in archaeology. The so-called grasp is to put something in the hands of the deceased and make it hold.
The "silk jade clothing" (replica) displayed in the exhibition hall of cultural relics excavated from the tomb of the Nanyue king in Guangzhou. Photo by Chen Chuhong
China News Agency: How was the "silky jade clothes" discovered? What is the story from excavation to restoration?
Wang Weiyi: In June 1983, a large tomb was discovered on Xianggang Mountain on Jiefang North Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, and the owner of the tomb was Zhao Wei, the second generation of the Nanyue Kingdom in the early years of the Western Han Dynasty. The tomb is the highest-grade, largest and best-preserved Han Dynasty painted stone chamber tomb found in the Lingnan region so far. At the time of archaeological excavations, this silky jade robe was in the middle of the tomb's main coffin.
The main coffin chamber of the original site of the tomb in the exhibition area of the tomb of the Nanyue King in Guangzhou. Photo by Chen Chuhong
Due to the age and the repeated flooding of the tomb, when it was unearthed, the silk fabric of the silk jade clothes had basically decayed, and the jade pieces were scattered all over the place. How to deal with the restoration of jade chips was a major archaeological problem at that time. Later, archaeologists used plaster to "pack the jade clothes as a whole", packed the whole set of jade clothes and other attachments, transported them to the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, stored them in a laboratory in good conditions, and the team led by archaeologist Bai Rongjin repaired it little by little, and finally took three years to complete the repair. From this, we can imagine how manpower and material resources were required to make this jade robe more than 3,<> years ago.
Nowadays, the jade pieces of the silk jade clothes that people see are originals, and the silk threads and linen are added when repairing, which has a certain deviation from the original silk threads and linen cloth of the jade clothes, and the silk thread is selected red because the silk thread residues on the jade pieces are red.
At one end of the glove of the "silk jade coat" is a pair of dragon-shaped jade with different shapes, called jade grip in archaeology. Photo by Chen Chuhong
China News Agency: As the "treasure of the town hall" of the Nanyue King Museum, where is the rarity of "silk jade clothing" reflected?
Wang Weiyi: From the perspective of embellishment materials, the gold and silver of gold and silver jade clothes are indeed much more precious than silk threads. When the silk jade clothes of King Wen of Nanyue were made, it may be that the time was short, and the silk thread was used. But it is precisely this that makes things scarce expensive. According to incomplete statistics, there are no less than 10 sets of golden jade clothes unearthed across the country, but there is only one silk jade clothing. Therefore, the silky jade clothes unearthed from the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue are unique in the country. In the Han Dynasty cultural relics or "jade clothing circle", silk strands of jade clothing have their own unique status.
Moreover, the jade cloth wisps unearthed from the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue are not found in the literature. In order to facilitate opening and overlapping, the top is in the form of a placket, which is a new feature in terms of shape.
The silk jade robe of Zhao Wei, King Wen of Nanyue, was made before the first year of the burial of Emperor Wudi of Han (122 BC), nearly 10 years before the golden jade clothes of Liu Sheng, King of Zhongshan Jing, and his wife Dou Wei in the Han tomb of Mancheng, Hebei, and is the earliest complete set of silk jade clothing in the era of Chinese archaeological discoveries. In fact, the tombs of the Han Dynasty have "ten tombs and nine emptiness", and there are only a handful of well-preserved tombs of princes and kings. The entire tomb of King Wen of Nanyue, including the silk jade clothes, was not stolen, but preserved intact, which is also a major advantage.
Jade pendant displayed in the exhibition hall of cultural relics excavated from the tomb of the Nanyue King in Guangzhou. Photo by Chen Chuhong
China News Agency: How to interpret the ancient Chinese jade clothing system through "silk jade clothing"?
Wang Weiyi: The ancient Chinese believed that burial with jade could make the body immortal and the soul ascend to heaven. In fact, the system of using jade clothes as funeral clothing in Chinese history can be traced back to the "jade mask" and jade flakes of clothing in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. According to known archaeological materials, well-formed jade clothes appeared at the time of Emperor Wen of the Western Han Dynasty and Emperor Jing, and the emperor and princes wearing jade clothes began to prevail during the time of Emperor Wudi of Han. According to the Book of the Later Han Rites, the emperor of the Han Dynasty used gold strands of jade after his death. Princes, princes, nobles and princesses use silver jade clothes, and great nobles and eldest princesses use copper jade clothes. By the Eastern Han Dynasty, jade clothing had been clearly divided into three grades: gold strand, silver wisp and copper wisp. In the third year of the early Huang dynasty of Cao Wei (3 AD), the Weiwen Emperor Cao Pi abolished the jade clothing system in order to prevent tomb robbery, and so far, no jade clothes have been found after the Eastern Han Dynasty.
The silk jade clothes unearthed from the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue are obviously of great significance for the study of the ancient Chinese jade clothing system. Archaeological expert Bai Rongjin pointed out in the excavation report of the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue: "As a high-level funeral costume of feudal rulers, jade clothes appeared in the time of the Western Han Dynasty, prevailed in the period of Emperor Wu, abolished in the Three Kingdoms Cao Wei, and experienced more than 300 years before and after, this set of silk jade clothes shows the early characteristics of the development process of jade clothing." ”
It can be speculated that Zhao Wei's reign coincided with the prevalence of jade burial in the Western Han Dynasty, and he began to build this underground palace before his death, and imitated the emperor of the Han family in the Central Plains to wear jade clothes after his death. In addition to wearing silk jade clothes, King Wen of Nanyue also laid dozens of large and small jade bi on the inside and outside of the jade robe, with a jade bi at the top of the head cover of the jade robe, a jade coat on each glove, and a pair of bi next to the foot cover, which further reflected the noble jade concept and thick burial customs of the rulers of the country of South Vietnam. Unfortunately, Yuyi did not preserve the function of the corpse from decay, and Zhao Wei's body still turned into dirt.
The jade bi displayed in the exhibition hall of cultural relics excavated from the tomb of the Nanyue King in Guangzhou attracts visitors. Photo by Chen Chuhong
China News Agency: The "silk jade clothes" unearthed from the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue, as well as jade pei and jade bi, belong to jade. What is the important value of "silk jade clothing" for understanding the Chinese civilization that values jade?
Wang Weiyi: More than 240 pieces of jade were unearthed from the tomb of King Wen of Nanyue, accounting for nearly 19% of the cultural relics unearthed in the tomb, including <> kinds of jade clothes, jade bi, jade huang, jade ring, seal, etc. Its large number, wide variety and good preservation are an unprecedented development of Han Dynasty archaeology. The manufacturing process of the tomb jade of King Wen of Nanyue is roughly the same as that of the Central Plains jade, including carving, chiseling, inlaying, polishing, and transformation. Engraving techniques: wire engraving, relief, openwork, etc.
The appearance of some jade pieces in silk jade clothing is similar to that of jade unearthed at the Qujiang Shixia site in Guangdong, and it should be specially made by the court of Nanyue State. Therefore, we have reason to believe that there must be a considerable scale of jade carving workshops in the court of the State of South Vietnam, and their jade craftsmanship level has reached a certain height. It can also be seen from this that King Wen of Nanyue was very obsessed with jade. This is a major embodiment of the Chinese nation's preference for jade and its value for jade.
Jade, the beauty of stone also. Its texture is warm and meticulous, and its luster is soft. As early as the Neolithic period, more than 7000,<> years ago, Chinese began polishing jade. China was one of the three largest centers of jade manufacturing in the ancient world (the other two being Central America and New Zealand), and jade production took place over thousands of years. Different periods have formed a distinct style of the times, unique in the world. Confucian scholars, including Confucius, have a lot of praise for jade, such as the saying that "a gentleman is better than jade", and also give jade a lot of ceremonial value.
A rhino-horn-shaped jade cup displayed in the exhibition hall of cultural relics excavated from the tomb of the Nanyue King in Guangzhou. Photo by Chen Chuhong
China News Agency: The West seems to prefer gemstones and gold, where is the value orientation of Chinese civilization to value jade?
Wang Weiyi: The love of gemstones, gold or jade is closely related to national temperament. Ancient China was an agricultural society, and the idea of taking agriculture as a value and emphasizing agriculture had a great influence. For thousands of years, Chinese has formed a restrained, gentle, low-key, tolerant, and peaceful national temperament and national character in a natural environment facing the loess with its back to the sky. China is a large jade producer, and there are jade sources in many regions, and jade has a warm temperament, as a suitable carrier, it is naturally combined with the temperament of the Chinese nation.
The "Seal of Emperor Wen" displayed in the exhibition hall of cultural relics excavated from the tomb of the Nanyue king in Guangzhou. Photo by Chen Chuhong
In contrast, the Roman Empire at the same time as the Western Han Dynasty and the earlier ancient Greek civilization were more integrated with water and sea, and foreign exchanges and exchanges were frequent, making Western national characters more open and free. The character of the person formed in this environment is naturally easier to combine with the local gold, red sapphire and other more shiny, colored minerals.
In this way, lifeless minerals, combined with living people, form Chinese's fascination with jade, and Westerners' love for gold and gemstones, further reflecting their respective national characteristics. It is worth pointing out that from the perspective of the whole world, there are not many people who like jade, which also highlights the value orientation of the Chinese nation to value jade and peace. (End)
Wang Weiyi, Vice President of the Nanyue King Museum, Deputy Research Librarian, Secretary-General of the Mission Committee of the Guangdong Museum Association. He has created museum mission brands such as Nanyue Workshop, Tanyue Academy, and Nanyue King Cup, and has won many honors from relevant museums at the provincial and municipal levels.