A Window to Eastern Chou: Eastern Chou Relics Excavated from Honan
The Eastern Chou (770-221 BCE) was a time of great diversity. Prominent thinkers such as Laotzu, Confucius, and Motzu were active in this period, leaving significant influence on mankind with their enlightened works. On the other hand, this was a phase of turmoil. Driven by greed, rulers of states in the Central Plain found their own excuses for contention and ravages of wars. The casualties often reached tens of thousands in one battle. Outside the heartland, there were many other political entities on the East Asia continent which were forgotten in classical history books. Some were forced to participate this competition, while others got caught in crossfires and submerged in the flood of history.

Therefore, our exhibition attempts to open a window to the diversities of the Eastern Chou. The exhibits are findings from tombs of the Cheng and Chin States, comprising collections from two institutions. First, relics from archaeological excavations made by the Institute of History and Philology at Shan-piao-chen in Chi County and Liu-li-ko in Hui County since1935 to 1937, which are tombs of the mid Spring and Autumn to the early Warring States period (ca. 600-400 BCE). The second part belongs to the collection of National Museum of History, gathering artifacts from two other tombs of Liu-li-ko, and the earlier excavation at Li-chia-lou Tomb in Hsin-cheng County conducted by Honan local organizations during the “pre-archaeology phase.”

This exhibition is divided into three sections, starting from the Honan relics in National Museum of History’s collection, which include monumental bronzes of Li-chia-lou and Liu-li-ko. The second and third sections introduce objects from the Institute of History and Philology’s excavations at Liu-li-ko Tomb M60 and Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1; the whole sets of artifacts from each tomb will be on display. Through this exhibition, one may observe the upper class material culture in the Central Plain during the Eastern Chou period, and the transition of artifact styles from the mid Spring and Autumn to the early Warring States. In particular, bronzes of the Chin State, ranging from ambiguity and being lost features of Liu-li-ko relics to confidence and aggression of Shan-piao-chen artifacts manufactured by Hsin-t’ien (capital of the Chin) workshops, reflect the proactive spirit of Chin people in prosperous economy after around one century’s development in Hsin-t'ien since the capital relocation in 575 BCE. We name this art characteristic the “Hsin-t’ien manner.”
  • Li-chia-lou Tomb, Liu-li-ko Tomb Chia and I

    The collection of Li-chia-lou Tomb in Hsin-cheng County, and Liu-li-ko Tomb Chia and I in Hui County are the Honan relics deposited in the National Museum of History after their relocation to Taiwan. The abundant artifacts of exquisite workmanship indicate that these two cemetery sites were supposedly of the upper classes. National Treasures, Significant Antiquities along with other monumental objects are showcased in this exhibition.

    Discovered in August 1923, Li-chia-lou Tomb in Hsincheng County is the earliest grave site excavated and preserved by the local government. Rich relics in this tomb range from food vessels, wine vessels, music instruments, to washing vessels. While inheriting the Western Chou tradition, coiled ch’ih dragon patterns and coiled snake patterns in the style of Chin State are also seen on the artifacts. Bronzes of Ch’u culture in the south, such as the pair of square hu with dragon-shaped handles and tiger-shaped legs, and bathing jars are among the findings as well. Features on these vessels from this tomb, which is dated approximately as of the mid to late Spring and Autumn period, reflect the status of Cheng State in the Eastern Chou. Cheng was a state of developed economic, being situated at the heart of the Central Plain with connection to vital roads in all directions. After the mid Spring and Autumn period, it played pendulum between the two powerful states, namely Chin State in the north, and Ch’u State in the south.

    Liu-li-ko Tomb Chia and I are the two large-scale tombs excavated by the Henan Museum in 1936 at the east of Liu-li-ko cemetery site in Hui County. Three types of cauldrons including 7 sets of graded cauldrons, 9 accompanying cauldrons and 1 tripod cauldron were found in Tomb Chia. Researchers assume the grave owner was of the minister’s or grand master’s rank. Tomb I is a bit smaller than Tomb Chia, and no weapons or music instruments were among its burial goods, which led to the speculation that it’s an accompany tomb of the wife. Bronzes in both tombs came with both the tradition of the Central Plain in the Western Chou period, and new elements of the Chin State style. Large number of exquisite jades were also excavated. Some of them are dated earlier than the mid to late Spring and Autumn period, holding features of the Shang and Chou period.

  • Liu-Li-Ko Tomb M60, Honan

    The Liu-li-ko cemetery site is located in Hui County (present day Huihsien City) in Honan province. Tombs of the upper class, filled with abundant burial goods, occupied the central position of this cemetery. Tomb M60 is one of these large tombs. It is a vertical pit tomb measuring 4.7 m north-south by 5.8 m east-west.

    Most of the burial objects in Tomb M60 are bronzewares. The tomb contains a great variety of large food and water vessels as well as musical instruments. The decorative motifs on the bronzes are of a transitional nature and include coiled ch’ih hornless dragons and coiled snake designs that were prevalent after the Middle Spring and Autumn period. There are also wave band patterns and coiled dragon motifs which were popular in a slightly earlier time period; thus, this tomb is dated to the middle Spring and Autumn period (mid seventh—mid sixth century B.C.) or sometime slightly earlier. The vessels with the earlier decorative patterns are of a lesser quality, while bronzes with the later, newly derived decorative elements are beautifully made, depicting a much more vigorous and dominant artistic style.

    The massive amount of bronze ting cauldrons and graded sets of chung bells from Tomb M60 are perfect manifestation of the affluence enjoyed by the tomb owner. Other burial goods include a large number of jade, stone and agate ornaments found at the chest of the deceased, as well as numerous finely made bronze roundels wrapped in gold foil, bronze-made cowry shells, and many other ornaments made of jade and stone. The adjacent Pit M20 is a horse and chariot pit, probably placed there in association with Tomb M60. Since the region in which the Liu-li-ko cemetery is located was under the control of the state of Chin in the Spring and Autumn period, the owner of Tomb M60 was probably a minister of Chin.
  • Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1, Honan


    The Shan-piao-chen cemetery site is located in Chi-hsien, Honan (today, this is part of Wei-hui City). Tomb M1 at the site was the largest tomb excavated, and it also produced the richest amount of artifacts. Tomb M1 is a vertical pit tomb, with the bottom of the tomb chamber measuring 7.1 m north-south by 7.4 m east-west: these dimensions would place it in the range of middle to large-scale tombs of the Eastern Chou period. The excavators found that the inner and outer coffins had both disintegrated, leaving only ashy traces of the planking of the wooden outer-coffin. Four sacrificial human skeletons were located to the side of the inner coffin. Stone and charcoal were packed along the four outer sides of the outer-coffin: the charcoal would have prevented moisture and tree roots from penetrating the coffin chamber while the hard stone was meant to thwart grave robbers. Perhaps because of this, although the tomb had been robbed, only a small portion of it was damaged.

    The burial objects in Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1 consisted mainly of a great variety of bronzes, including ritual vessels, musical instruments, weapons, horse-and-chariot fittings, and tools. Among these were rare items of exquisite workmanship, including two bronze chien-basins with scenes of water and land battles and a pair of rounded hu-jars with a standing bird cast on the lid. In contrast to the bronzes from Liu-li-ko Tomb M60, Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1 had few bronzes with coiled ch'ih hornless dragons and coiled snake motifs. Most of the bronze vessels from Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1 were either plain-surfaced without decorative patterns or only had cloud-and-thunder patterns. However, at the same time, bronzes from Tomb M1 also show that bronze inlay techniques continued to develop, evolving from the single animal patterns of the Late Spring and Autumn period (mid-sixthmid-fifth century B.C.) to the more narrative battle scenes. 

    Stylistic analysis dates Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1 to the time between the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, i.e., the mid fifth century B.C. or slightly later. Although there were fewer chung-bells and ting-cauldrons in Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1 than in Liu-li-ko Tomb M60, the po-bells from Tomb M1 were of much finer manufacture. The owner of Shan-piao-chen Tomb M1 seems to have been a person of high status, at least an officer of state.

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