2,100-Year-Old King’s Mausoleum Discovered in China

An elaborate mausoleum that was built for a king 2,100 years ago has been unearthed in China.

Archaeologists discovered numerous precious treasures from jade artifacts and musical instruments to life-sized decorated chariots and weapons, which were buried with king Liu Fei in an area of modern-day Xuyi County.


Liu Fei ruled the kingdom of Jiangdu – part of the Chinese Empire – for 26 years before dying in 128 BC. It is thought that the mausoleum was plundered long ago, but archaeologists still found over 10,000 artefacts, some of which were crafted from gold, silver and jade.

Excavations of the mausoleum, which comprises three tombs as well as pits housing the chariots and weapons, LiveScience reported. According to the journal of Chinese Archaeology, a team from Nanjing Museum examined the remains of a well that surrounded the complex, which was built to be 1,608 ft (490 meters) long.

They worked quickly to document the site, which they said was at risk from quarrying.

A large mound of the earth once protected the king’s tomb, which has two shafts leading to a roomy burial chamber measuring 115ft by 85ft (35 by 26 metres). It contained goods fit for a king in his afterlife, the archaeologists explained.

Historical texts recount the king’s lavish lifestyle, so it came as little surprise to archaeologists that he was buried in such luxurious surroundings.

Weapons discovered in the burial chamber included iron swords, crossbows, knives and more than 20 model chariots, alongside instruments such as chime bells and parts for a stringed instrument called a zither.


Because, according to ancient tradition, the king needed riches in the afterlife, a hoard of 100,000 coins containing a square hole in the center of each, were buried with him. The banliang coins were made by the first emperor of China.

Goose and deer-shaped lamps were discovered in another part of the chamber as well as a silver basin, while another area, set up like a kitchen, catered for the king’s food needs in the afterlife.

Cauldrons, wine jars, tripods, jugs and cups were found as well as shells, bones and seeds, suggesting that food was left with the king.

Despite the rich selection of artefacts that survived a past plundering, the king’s body was not found in the tomb and his coffins were damaged.

‘Near the coffins many jade pieces and fragments, originally parts of the jade burial suit, were discovered. These pieces also indicate that the inner coffin, originally lacquered and inlaid with jade plaques, was exquisitely manufactured,’ the archaeologists wrote in the journal.


Off the main burial chamber, more pits were found housing a jumble of weapons such as swords and shields, as well as two chariot pits. One contains five life-size chariots, made of wood and elaborately decorated with lacquer. Some parts of the vehicles were inlaid with gold and silver.

Other looted tombs were also discovered, which could belong to high-status individuals. An undamaged ‘jade coffin’ is the only one of its kind to have been found in China.

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