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Home History and Culture Jade Burial Suit
Jade Burial Suit
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

 jinlvyuyi

Also known as "jade casket" or "jade case", a jade burial suit (jīn lǚ yù yī 金缕玉衣) is a ceremonial suit made of pieces of jade in which only some nobles and emperors of the Han Dynasty (hàn cháo 汉朝) (202BC—9AD, 25AD—220AD) were buried. It was a top class burial suit at that time. A total of 49 complete and partial jade burial suits were uncovered between 1954 and 1996.

The emperors of the Han Dynasty believed that jade could prevent their corpses form decaying, and they regarded jade as full of dignity and nobility. Therefore, they used jade suits as their grave clothes. Gold thread was used to link pieces of four-square jade separately that are called Jade Suit Sewn with Gold Thread, Jade Suit Sewn with Silver Thread, and Jade Suit Sewn with Copper Thread.
jinlvyuyiAccording to the Book of Later Han (hòu hàn shū 后汉书), the type of wire used was dependent on the station of the person buried. The jade burial suits of emperors used gold thread; princes, princesses, dukes, and marquises, silver thread; sons or daughters of those given silver thread, copper thread; and lesser aristocrats, silk thread, with all others being forbidden to be buried in jade burial suits. Considering the vast size of the country, and the relatively slow means of disseminating information, it is not surprising that the materials and techniques use in a jade burial suit occasionally differed from the official guidelines.
The making of a jade burial suit was no easy job, because it had strict requirements on techniques. First, jade materials transported from far-away places were processed into thousands of small jade pieces of certain shapes and sizes after lots of procedures; second, each jade piece was polished and drilled, with the shapes and sizes of the holes undergoing special scrutiny and delicate processing; third, a lot of specially made gold, silver or copper threads were used to join the jade pieces.
Although their coffins had collapsed, Liu Sheng (líu shèng 刘胜) and Dou Wan (dòu wǎn 窦绾) were each found in a well-preserved jade suit -- the earliest and finest specimen unearthed so far.Liu Sheng's was made of 2498 pieces of jade, sewn together with 1.1 kilograms of gold thread. Each suit consists of 12 sections: face, head, front, and back parts of tunic, arms, gloves, leggings, and feet.
jinlvyuyiThe back of the jade pieces were numbered. Archeologists believed that the ancient craftsmen designed the suit on a wood manikin. Lines were drawn on the manikin to divide the sections. Then the jade was cut into different shapes and sizes to fit in with each part of the body.
The gold threads are generally 4-5 centimeters long and the thinnest ones are no thicker than a human hair. It has been estimated that a suit such as Liu Sheng's would have taken ten years to fashion. Along with the jade suits, Liu Sheng and Dou Wan each had gilt bronze headrests inlaid with jade and held jade crescents in their hands.

金缕玉衣
     
中国汉代皇帝和贵族的殓服。按死者等级分为金缕、银镂、铜缕。1968年满城汉墓出土的两套金缕玉衣,保存完整,形状如人体,各由两千多玉片用金丝编缀而成,每块玉片的大小和形状都经过严密设计和精细加工,可见当时高超的手工艺水平。
  玉衣的一种。用金缕编成, 汉 代皇帝和贵族死后用为殓服。由于等级不同,玉衣有金缕、银缕、铜缕之分,这三种玉衣在考古工作中都有发现。 河北 满城 汉 中山靖王 刘胜 夫妇墓出土的两套金缕玉衣,各由两千多玉片用金丝编缀而成。
  金缕玉衣是汉代规格最高的丧葬殓服,大致出现在西汉文景时期。据《西京杂志》记载,汉代帝王下葬都用“珠襦玉匣”,形如铠甲,用金丝连接。这种玉匣就是人们日常说的金缕玉衣。当时人们十分迷信玉能够保持尸骨不朽, 更把玉作为一种高贵的礼器和身份的象征。
  汉代皇帝和贵族,死时穿“玉衣”(又称“玉匣”)入葬。它们是用许多四角穿有小孔的玉片,用金丝、银丝或铜编缀起来的,分别称为“金缕玉衣”(帝王级)、“银缕玉衣”(诸侯王级)、“铜缕玉衣”(公侯级)。

 

 

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