A Visit to the Haihunhou Heritage Park Museum in China

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Photos taken by Rectory student, Martin L.

These are gold horse shoes or hooves, which archaeologists believe were made for the horses used to pull chariots. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Haihunhou Heritage Park is a museum containing artifacts from the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun. It is located in Nanchang, which is in East China’s Jiangxi Province, and it opened in September of 2020; excavation of the site had started back in 2011. This site holds the distinction of yielding the most artifacts of all the excavated sites in China. A recent visit to this museum was very educational and helped inform my understanding of a particular part of Chinese history.

On a sunny Saturday, my family and I traveled to the site of the Haihun Marquis, a historical tomb site owned by Liu He. People say that Liu He was emperor of the Han dynasty for just 27 days, in the year 74 BC, before being deposed. This was because he performed over 1,100 immoral and dishonorable acts during the 27 days that he ruled. The entire tomb site consists of two parts, the museum where everything is exhibited and the tomb of Liu He. After entering the museum, I was awestruck by the number of relics exhibited and the delicacy of many of them. There were much too many relics exhibited there, so I will talk about the two that I loved the most.

Walking into one of the dark exhibits, a spotlight is shone on a massive glass case. Situated in the center of the room, it is highlighted as the main feature. It is all the gold Liu He had in his tomb. These gold products can be divided into gold plates, horseshoe gold, and Lin Zhi gold. The total number is nearly 400 pieces, and the total weight is more than 100 kilograms! According to the accompanying text, these gold products were originally intended to be dedicated to the court when Liu He attended the Liu family’s annual ceremony held in Chang An city every year. But after Liu He was ousted, he couldn’t even participate, and the gold naturally stayed with him. Later, he simply took it with him to the afterlife. The artistic value of the horseshoe gold is very high; it imitates the hooves of horses and certain deer. They are hollow with glass pieces embedded at the openings. After observing the piles of gold coins and delicate golden hooves, I couldn’t help but admire the work skills at that time, but I also feel disgusted that the emperor could own so much money – – enough to feed the poor for years! 

Enclosed in a glass case is one of the Liu He jade stamps that signified status.

Liu He’s Stamps (刘贺印)

Although these stamps are very small, the words on them are very important. They signify the identity of the owner of the tomb, Liu He. In modern times, it would be like an ID card people carry around with them. They also signify Liu He’s status during that time. When I first stared at the small glass container, I was in doubt that it was one of the most important artifacts in the museum. In great contrast to the huge gold case, the jade stamps were very small. However, after observing closely through a magnifying glass in the case, the words on the bottom were visible. The careful craftsmanship of the words on the stamps is evident. The ability of the craftsmen at that time to be able to carve delicate words on such tiny pieces of jade is amazing!

My family visit occurred during the Chinese New Year. While participating in the festivities for one of the most important holidays of the year in China, as well as the busiest travel days of the year, we decided to also take a trip to this museum. Despite being a great learning experience, it was also very bonding for our family. Since I rarely see my cousins and my aunts and uncles, this trip to the museum provided us with more time to be together. The most enjoyable part of the trip had to be at the end when one of my cousins proposed a game he thought we should play revolving around the information we had learned at the museum. I had no idea that such a simple game of asking questions and adding up points for correct answers could be so enjoyable, but it was especially fun when played with our family members! Perhaps simple pleasures really are the best!