Han Dynasty Toy Story: Uncovered Relics Belong to the Son of ‘Loose Morals’ Emperor Liu
A collection of small toys and a seal bearing a name – these are the remnants of the lost childhood of a Chinese emperor’s son. His father was tossed from the throne just 27 days after the emperor gained his title, but the controversial ruler from about 2,000 years ago has certainly left his mark on history; not just for his short reign, but also the immense cemetery where he and his loved ones were laid to rest.
Daily Mail reports the boy had been buried with a toy tiger he could drag along beside him, some bronze animal and kitchen playsets, and a collection of small gold ingots. Jade, crystal, and agate artifacts were also discovered in the tomb.
Examining some of the artifacts discovered in the disgraced emperor’s son’s tomb. ( Xinhua/Wan Xiang )
According to Xinhua, archaeologists were able to confirm the tomb as Liu He’s son’s when they unearthed a metal seal inscribed “Liu Chongguo.”
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A metal seal inscribed “Liu Chongguo” was found in the tomb. ( Xinhua/Wan Xiang )
Li Cunxin, a researcher with the Chinese Society of Social Sciences, said that excavators have not found any human remains such as bones or teeth in Liu Chongguo’s tomb. Researchers were only able to identify who Liu Chongguo was by examining historical documents. It was then that they found the burial place belonged to Haihun marquis Liu He’s first son, who died before reaching adulthood.
A jade artifact found in the tomb of Liu He’s son. ( Xinhua/Li He )
This tomb, known as tomb 5, is located to the north of Liu He’s tomb. Previously, researchers thought that it was the burial location of Liu He's favorite mistress.
Yang Jun, head of the site’s archaeological team, said the team has only found a few artifacts from the nearby tomb four, and the other burial close by, tomb six, has not been excavated since work began at the site in 2011.
Goose-shaped bronze lamp excavated from the tomb of Liu He. (Siyuwj/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
That is not especially surprising if you consider that the Marquis of Haihun site is huge. It covers an area of about 40,000 square meters (about 10 acres) on the outskirts of Nanchang in Jiangxi Province. This site has eight known tombs as well as a rare chariot burial. As Global Times mentions, this archaeological site contains the best-preserved Western Han Dynasty royal tomb in China.
Over 20,000 artifacts have been discovered at the cemetery to date, including a version of Confucius' Analects – a collection of writing on bamboo slips which was thought to have been lost. A possible painting of Confucius was also ironically discovered in Liu He’s tomb.
Example of a painting depicting Confucius. ( Public Domain )
Yang Jun said China plans to apply for World Cultural Heritage status for the site when they have completed a national park at the location in about two years from now. Global Times reports that work has begun on the creation of a “digital hall” with virtual creations of artifacts which have been found at the site.
As Ancient Origins reported in 2015 , Liu He ruled during the Western Han Dynasty but was quickly deposed when his officials accused him of a lack of morals and excess of pleasures as well as general incompetence to hold his authoritative position.
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Mark Miller wrote of the emperor’s misconduct :
“One site says Liu He committed 1,127 acts of misconduct, though it did not specify what they were. Another site says “he was known for his inclination to pleasures already as a prince,” a situation that became insufferable when he took the throne. Though he was considered mad and was examined from time to time by officials, they made him the Marquis of Haihun.”
Liu He was banished to Nanchang in 74 BC. The ruler was provided with a state burial when he died in 59 BC.
Personal stamp of Liu He. (Siyuwj/CC BY SA 4.0 )
Top Image: An artifact discovered in the disgraced emperor’s son’s tomb. Source: Xinhua/Wan Xiang