Wei was one of the feudal states of the Chou dynasty. Textual references dated to the Spring and Autumn period (771-468 B.C.) indicate that Wei was a minor state, yet two to three centuries earlier, the state of Wei had been a major power and had played a pivotal role in the Chou conquest of Shang and the establishment of the Chou dynasty.

Wei was originally a dynastic city during the late Shang dynasty. When King Wu of Chou defeated the last Shang king, he then enfeoffed a Shang prince, Wu-keng, to continue governing over the region of the Shang capital at Yin. Upon the death of King Wu there was dissension among the Chou ruling class, and Wu-keng joined the Kuan-shu and Ts'ai-shu factions in their rebellion against the Duke of Chou. A military campaign led by the Duke of Chou put down this rebellion in the east, and the trusted younger brother of the Duke of Chou, K'ang-shu, was then dispatched to oversee the region of Wei. The state of Wei became a key location in the Chou's eastward expansion into and colonization of remaining Shang territories. With the Western Chou capital, Ch'eng Chou, at its rear and the states of Ch'i and Lu to its front, the Chou established a formidable stronghold. The "Eight Army Divisions of Yin" controlled by the Chou royal court was probably based here in Wei. 

In the early l930s, the Institute excavated a Western Chou cemetery on the banks of the Ch'i River at Hsin-ts'un, Chün-hsien, Honan Province. The location of this site is approximately twenty kilometers from Ch'ao-ko, a city of the last Shang king. According to several commentaries on the Chinese classics, the state of Wei was located in this region. Furthermore, a piece of armor excavated from the Hsin-ts'un cemetery bore the inscription "Wei-shih Yang" (Yang of the Army of Wei). We may conclude that the Hsin-ts'un cemetery belonged to the state of Wei during the Western Chou period.

The Institute carried out four seasons of excavations at the Hsin-ts'un cemetery. The area excavated measured about 300 m north-south by 500 m east-west, and it contained eight large-scale tombs with tomb ramps, six medium-sized tombs, fifty-four small tombs, two horse-and-chariot pits, and twelve horse pits, for a total of eighty-two tombs and pits. According to the Chou sumptuary system governing funerary rites, large tombs such as these with ramps ought to have belonged to men within the ranks of the high nobility and their wives. In the Hsin-ts'un cemetery, a male and a female were often buried in a pair, with their separate graves side by side. The large tombs at Hsin-ts'un have associated horse-and-chariot pits and small accompanying burials: these are characteristics found in other Western Chou cemeteries as well.

The Hsin-ts'un cemetery was in use from the reigns of King Ch'eng and King K'ang at the beginning of the Western Chou period through the Late Western Chou period or beginning of the Eastern Chou period; archaeologists divide the burials into three periods based on the styles of their furnishings. Most of the large tombs at Hsin-ts'un had been robbed, and only a few of the medium and small-sized tombs remained intact. Fortunately, however, archaeologists were still able to recover the precious and rare horse-and-chariot fittings. 
  • HSIN-TSUN TOMB M60

    HSIN-TSUN TOMB M60
    Tomb M60 at Hsin-ts'un in Chn-hsien, Honan, is one of the few burials at this cemetery that was not looted. It was a medium-sized burial located in the northwestern section of the cemetery. The tomb chamber measured 2.85 m north-south by 1.6 m east-west. It was furnished with an inner coffin but no outer coffin. Tomb M60 paralleled Horse Pit 59. Six bronze ritual vessels and many horse and chariot fittings and weapons were found in the tomb. Their layout suggests that each type of burial object was placed in the grave in a set order: ritual vessels at the north end of the tomb chamber, weapons on the east and west sides, and horse-and-chariot fittings at the south end. Typological studies of the grave goods indicate that Tomb M60 dates to the Early Western Chou period (the last half of the eleventh century B.C.). 

    The most precious vessels from Tomb M60 were a combined pair of bronze vessels composed of a tsun-beaker and yu-jar. This combination of tsun and yu is the most common wine vessel assemblage in graves from the Early Western Chou period through the early Middle Western Chou period (mid eleventh—mid tenth century B.C.). Usually, the tsun and yu each have the same inscription, but the inscriptions found on these two vessels in Tomb M60 were different, indicating that the vessels originally belonged to two different owners, "Lu" and "Pien." Perhaps these vessels ended up together by chance, but more likely they were consciously selected to form a proper pair because of their similar style and decoration. 

    A bronze yu-jar, yen-steamer, and ting-cauldron found in Tomb M60 were each inscribed with a different lineage emblem, "ya-i," jan," and "shu," respectively. A bronze tsun-beaker, chüeh-cup, and ting-cauldron in Tomb M60 were each inscribed with the name of an ancestor to whom the vessel was dedicated: these were "Fu I" (Father I), "Fu Kuei" (Father Kuei), and "Fu Hsin" (Father Hsin), respectively. Each of these vessels belonged to a distinct lineage and ancestor. According to the size of this tomb and its contents, the owner of Tomb M60 was a middle ranking aristocrat, but since the sources of the vessels in the tomb were very complicated, and since there were many weapons and chariot and horse fittings among the grave goods, we may infer that he was also someone involved in military campaigns and that the ritual vessels in his tomb were perhaps his war booty.
  • Pit M3 is the largest of the two horse-and-chariot pits. It is located southwest of Tomb M17 and Tomb M5 and was probably associated with these two burials. Pit 3 measures 9.1 m north-south by 10 m east-west. The pit contained a total of perhaps twelve chariots, seventy-two horses, eight dogs, and 315 bronze fittings. Based upon the location and positioning of the contents of Pit M3, we may conjecture that at the time of the burial, horses and dogs were first led into the pit. The chariots were then disassembled into pieces and probably cast into the pit. It is thus difficult to determine which parts belong together in each chariot. Only twenty-four sets of wheel decorations and eleven sets of yoke and harnessing decorations could be reconstructed. Because of the disposition of the remains and because the pit had been robbed, it is difficult to determine the exact number of chariots that were contained in Pit M3.

    The decorated nave (the chariot's wheel hub) sheathings from this pit are quite fine and unique. Two types were found: one was a long, one-piece nave-sheathing. The other was a tripartite nave-sheathing. The axle-cap and linchpin assemblage commonly found on chariots excavated in other regions are unusually rare in this pit. This thus shows the diversification of chariot fittings that was occurring during the Western Chou period (mid eleventh century—771 B.C.).

    Decorative patterns on the nave-sheathing from Pit M3 included a dangling leaf pattern composed of a pair of k'uei-dragons and another design with k'uei-dragons turning back their heads. Ends of the chariot draught-poles were also decorated with a k'uei-dragon design. The tripartite nave sheathings were decorated with wave patterns. Axle-caps were covered with double-ring and ch'ieh-chü patterns. Since all of these mainly consist of geometric animal patterns typical of the Middle and Late Western Chou periods (tenth-ninth century B.C.), Pit M3 can be dated to this period.