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The Tomb of Zhao Mei

An underground structure was discovered 16 years ago in the city proper of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, which later proved to be the tomb of Zhao Mei, the second ruler of the Kingdom of Southern Yue. Its discovery revealed the secret of the ancient kingdom.

Origin of the Kingdom

The Kingdom of Southern Yue was established about 2,000 years ago in the area where southern China's Guangdong Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region meet. It lasted for 93 years, and had five kings. Zhao Tuo, a general of the Qin Dynasty, unified the Lingnan area at the time China's first Emperor, Qin Shihuang, died. In 204 B.C., the Kingdom of Southern Yue was established, and Zhao Tuo made himself King Wu of that kingdom, choosing Guangzhou as his capital. In 111 B.C., the small kingdom was destroyed by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty.

Three out of the five rulers had tombs built for themselves, but nobody knew there they were located before the discovery of the Guangzhou tomb. During the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), Sun Quan, the ruler of the State of Wu, heard that there was a lot of treasure in the tombs, so he ordered his troops to search all the mountain slopes in the area of the extinguished kingdom. They found nothing, and the whereabouts of the tombs remained a mystery.

Underground Palace Tomb

On the tomb's 12-meter-high outside walls are carved designs of a man, the Sun and Moon gods have a gigantic serpent beneath their feet, symbolizing that they are capable of dispelling evil spirits. The tomb has been turned into a museum, illustrating the history of the kingdom.

An exhibition hall has been constructed in front of the tomb, consisting of several rooms, spread over three floors. The tomb was built on a slope on Xianggang Ridge. The layout is modeled on a palace of the time, consisting of four chambers and two halls.

One passed through a huge stone gate before entering the coffin chamber. A jade suit sewn with silken threads worn by the tomb's owner and decorated with gold, silver and jade objects around the hem, were found intact when the tomb was opened. Also found in the tomb were nine seals, one being made of gold with a knob in the shape of a coiled dragon. This gold seal enabled archaeologists to identify the tomb as that of the second ruler, Zhao Mei.

Burial Objects

The jade suit is particularly valuable because it is the oldest of its kind found so far. It consists of more than 1,000 pieces of jade, each having holes in all four corners. The silk fabrics decayed long ago. In addition, ten iron swords were found, each inlaid with gold and jade. The biggest is 1.46 m long, making it the longest iron sword dating from the time of the Han Dynasty (206B.C.-A.D.22O).

Numerous valuable burial objects were discovered in the side chambers. They include ivory, gold, silver, bronze, iron, pottery, glass, bamboo, jade and lacquer wares, demonstrating that workmanship in Guangdong had already reached high artistic level 2,000 years ago. In addition, they also show that the Southern Yue Kingdom and the Central Plains had close ties.

-Materials are provided by "Travel China weekly newspaper"




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