Taoist writing on silk, from Mawangdui.

Mawangdui (Chinese: 馬(马)王堆; pinyin: Mǎwángduī, lit. "King of Ma's Mound") is an archaeological site located in Changsha, China. The site consists of two saddle-shaped hills and contained the tombs of three people from the western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE). The tombs belonged to the first Marquis of Dai, his wife, and a male who is believed to be their son. The site was excavated from 1972 to 1974. Most of the artifacts from Mawangdui are displayed at the Hunan Provincial Museum.


The tombs and occupants

The tombs were made of large cypress planks. The outside of the tombs were layered with white clay and charcoal; white clay layering was a practice that originated with Chu burials, while charcoal layering was a practice that was followed during the early western Han Dynasty in the Changsha area. The tombs contained nested lacquered coffins, a Chu burial custom. The tombs also followed the burial practices dictated by Emperor Wen of Han, containing no jade or precious metals.

The eastern tomb, Tomb no. 1, contained the remains of a woman in her fifties (Lady Dai - Xin Zhui). Her mummified body was so well-preserved that researchers were able to perform an autopsy on her body, which showed that she probably died of a heart attack. Specifically, her diet was too rich in sugars and meats, and she suffered from arterial-coronary problems. Buried with her were skeletons of various food-animals, jujubes, lotus soup, grains and a complete meal including soup, rice and meat skewers on a lacquer set. Researchers found honeydew melon seeds in her stomach, inferring consumption right before death. She outlived the occupants of the other two tombs. Her personal name was Xinzhui (辛追).

Western Han (202 BC - 9 AD) era lacquerwares and lacquer tray unearthed from the 2nd-century-BC Han Tomb No.1 at Mawangdui

Xinzhui's tomb was the best preserved tomb by far of the three tombs. A complete cosmetic set, lacquered pieces and finely woven silk garments with paintings are almost perfectly preserved. Her coffins were painted according to Chu customs and beliefs with whirling clouds interwoven with mystical animals and dragons. The corpse was bound tightly in layers of silk cloth and covered with a wonderfully painted T-shaped tapestry depicting the netherworld, earth and heavens with Chinese mythological characters as well as Xinzhui. There was also a silk painting showing a variety of exercises researchers call the forerunner of Tai ji.

The western tomb, Tomb no. 2, was the burial site of the first Marquis of Dai, Li Cang (利蒼). He died in 186 BC. The Han Dynasty had appointed Li Cang as the chancellor of the Kingdom of Changsha. This tomb had been plundered several times by grave robbers.

Tomb no. 3 was directly south of Tomb no. 1, and contained the tomb of a man in his thirties who died in 168 BC. The occupant is believed to be a relative of Li Cang and his wife. This tomb contained a rich trove of military, medical, and astronomical manuscripts written on silk.


Tombs 1 and 2

Western Han painting on silk was found draped over the coffin in the grave of Lady Dai (c. 168 BC) at Mawangdui near Changsha in Hunan province.
An early Western-Han silk map found in tomb 3 of Mawangdui, depicting the Kingdom of Changsha and Kingdom of Nanyue in southern China (note: the south direction is oriented at the top).

One famous artifact type were the lacquered wine-bowls and cosmetic boxes , which showcased the craftsmanship of the regional lacquerware industry.

One of the most famous artifacts from Mawangdui were the silk funeral banners; the T-shaped banners were draped on the coffin of Tomb no. 1. The banners depicted the Chinese abstraction of the cosmos and the afterlife at the time of the western Han Dynasty. A silk banner of similar style and function were found in Tomb no. 3 on the coffin of Lady Dai's son.

The T-shaped silk funeral banner in the tomb of the Marquise (tomb no. 1) is called the "name banner" with the written name of the deceased replaced with their portrait. We know the name because the tomb's original inventory is still intact, and this is what it is called on the inventory. The Marquise was buried in four coffins, the silk banner drapes the innermost of the coffins.[1]

On the T-shaped painted silk garment, the uppermost horizontal section of the T represents heaven. The bottom of the vertical section of the T represents the underworld. The middle (the top of the vertical) represents earth. In heaven we can see Chinese deities such as Nuwa and Chang'e, as well as Daoist symbols such as cranes (representing immortality). Between heaven and earth we can see heavenly messengers sent to bring Lady Dai to heaven. Underneath this are Lady Dai's family offering sacrifices to help her journey to heaven. Underneath them is the underworld - two giant sea serpents intertwined.

The contents of Tomb no. 2 were destroyed during various attempts to rob the grave. An excavation report has been published within the last 5 years in Chinese, there has not been a publication of the tomb contents in English yet.

Tomb 3

Tomb no. 3 contained a silk name banner (similar to that of tomb 1) and three maps drawn on silk: a topographic map, a military map and a prefecture map. The maps display the Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi region and depict the political boundary between the Han Dynasty and Nanyue. The maps are some of the oldest discovered in China. At the time of its discovery, they were the oldest maps yet discovered in China, until 1986 when Qin State maps dating to the 4th century BC were found.

Tomb no. 3 contained a wealth of classical texts. The tomb contained texts on astronomy, which accurately depicted the planetary orbits for Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn and described various comets. The tomb also contained a rich collection of Huang-Lao Taoist texts, as well a copy of the Zhan Guo Ce. The tomb also contained various medical texts, including depictions of qigong (dao yin) exercises, as well as a historical text, the Chunqiu shiyu.

See also


  1. ^ , Lee, A History of Far Eastern Art, p. 61-62



  • Lee, Sherman E., 1994, A History of Far Eastern Art, Fifth edition, Prentice Hall
  • Harper, Don, 1998, Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts, Kegan Paul International.


  • Buck, David D., 1975, Three Han Dynasty Tombs at Ma-Wang-Tui. World Archaeology, 7(1): 30-45.
  • Hsu, Mei-Ling, 1978, The Han Maps and Early Chinese Cartography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 68(1): 45-60.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mawangdui — (chinesisch 馬王堆 / 马王堆 Mǎwángduī) ist eine 1972 in der damaligen Gemeinde Dongtundu (東屯渡鄉 / 东屯渡乡) der östlichen Außenbezirke Changshas entdeckte archäologische Stätte. Der Fundort gehört heute zum Straßenviertel… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mawangdui — bannière funéraire de la marquise de Dai, tombe 1 de Mawangdui, Han occidentaux, 168 145 avant notre ère, encre et couleurs sur soie, h : 205 cm, Musée de la province du Hunan. Mawangdui (馬王堆) est un site archéologique chinois exceptionnel… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mawangdui — Texto taoísta descubierto en Mawangdui. Mawangdui (馬王堆) es un yacimiento arqueológico chino situado en Wulibei (五里牌) pocos kilómetros al este de Changsha en la provincia de Hunan. Marcado por dos túmulos en forma de silla (mawang es una… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Mawangdui — ▪ archaeological site, China Wade Giles romanization  Ma wang tui        archaeological site uncovered in 1963 near Changsha, Hunan province, southeastern China. It is the burial place of a high ranking official, the marquess of Dai, who lived in …   Universalium

  • Mawangdui Hanmu — Mawangdui (chin. 馬王堆 / 马王堆, Mǎwángduī) ist eine 1972 in der damaligen Gemeinde Dongtundu (東屯渡鄉 / 东屯渡乡) der östlichen Außenbezirke Changshas entdeckte archäologische Stätte. Der Fundort gehört heute zum Straßenviertel Mawangdui… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mawangdui Silk Texts — The Mawangdui Silk Texts (Chinese: 馬王堆帛書; pinyin: Mǎwángduī Bóshū) are texts of Chinese philosophical and medical works written on silk and found at Mawangdui in China in 1973. They include some of the earliest attested manuscripts of existing… …   Wikipedia

  • Mawangdui I-Ging — Das I Ging (chin. 易經 / 易经, yì jīng, W. G. I Ching, auch: I Jing, Yi Ching, Yi King), das „Buch der Wandlungen“ oder „Klassiker der Wandlungen“ ist der älteste der klassischen chinesischen Texte. Das Buch ist auch als Chou I (周易, Zhōu Yì) bekannt …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Changsha Mawangdui — Mawangdui (chin. 馬王堆 / 马王堆, Mǎwángduī) ist eine 1972 in der damaligen Gemeinde Dongtundu (東屯渡鄉 / 东屯渡乡) der östlichen Außenbezirke Changshas entdeckte archäologische Stätte. Der Fundort gehört heute zum Straßenviertel Mawangdui… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Han-Gräber von Mawangdui — Mawangdui (chin. 馬王堆 / 马王堆, Mǎwángduī) ist eine 1972 in der damaligen Gemeinde Dongtundu (東屯渡鄉 / 东屯渡乡) der östlichen Außenbezirke Changshas entdeckte archäologische Stätte. Der Fundort gehört heute zum Straßenviertel Mawangdui… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Textos de seda Mawangdui — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda LosTextos de seda Mawangdui (chino: 馬王堆帛書, pinyin: Mǎwángduī Bóshū ) son textos de literatura, filosofía, trabajos médicos y astronómicos escritos en seda que fueron desenterrados en Mawangdui en China en 1973.… …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”