Revisiting the stunning tomb of princess Dou Wan and prince Liu Sheng

Entombed in rock almost 2000 years prior, the bodies of prince Liu Sheng and his consort Dou Wan were removed from two chambers cut into the side of a low hill 150 kilometres from peking. What they found was incredible.

Lady Dou Wan (Chinese: 竇綰; pinyin: Dòu Wǎn) was the wife of Liu Sheng, Prince of Zhongshan, of the Western Han dynasty of Chinese history.

She died about 104 BC and, because she was buried in a suit made of ornamental green rocks called jade, it was thought that she would achieve immortality.

These burial jade suits were made to protect the people from the flesh-soul. The predominant belief of this period was that every human being owned two souls: a flesh-soul and a breath-soul, the latter of which escapes after the death of a person, but the flesh-soul remains in the body for about a year after death. The flesh soul was believed to be very malignant, so the wealthy, just because they could afford, were plated in jade suits to prevent it from escaping the body.

Jade suits were extremely difficult to make and expensive. It would take several years to even make one.

Her husband, Prince Liu Sheng died nine years earlier than her, and he too had been given a similar shroud and the pair were laid to rest in vast tombs hollowed out of a rocky hillside, undisturbed.

Entrance to the tomb of princess Dou Wan

That was until 1968, when their remains were discovered. It generated a sensation throughout the land because of the staggering wealth of the 2800 funeral offerings that surrounded them.

The most spectacular, however were the jade suits, each of them made up of more than 2000 tiny plates of thin jade, sewn together by gold thread! These were the first jade suits to be discovered by archaeologists.

The jade suit of princess Dou Wan; Image source: Pinterest

Nobles of this period believed gold and jade could confer immortality because both of them could withstand the ravages of time. But while they were right about the valuable stone and the precious metal, the mortal bodies of the prince and the princess had crumbled to dust!


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