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              Home History and Culture Jade Burial Suit
              Jade Burial Suit
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              Also known as "jade casket" or "jade case", a jade burial suit (jīn lǚ yù yī 金縷玉衣) is a ceremonial suit made of pieces of jade in which only some nobles and emperors of the Han Dynasty (hàn cháo 漢朝) (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 后漢書), 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 劉勝) and Dou Wan (dòu wǎn 竇綰) 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.

                玉衣的一種。用金縷編成, 漢 代皇帝和貴族死后用為殮服。由于等級不同,玉衣有金縷、銀縷、銅縷之分,這三種玉衣在考古工作中都有發現。 河北 滿城 漢 中山靖王 劉勝 夫婦墓出土的兩套金縷玉衣,各由兩千多玉片用金絲編綴而成。
                金縷玉衣是漢代規格最高的喪葬殮服,大致出現在西漢文景時期。據《西京雜志》記載,漢代帝王下葬都用“珠襦玉匣”,形如鎧甲,用金絲連接。這種玉匣就是人們日常說的金縷玉衣。當時人們十分迷信玉能夠保持尸骨不朽, 更把玉作為一種高貴的禮器和身份的象征。



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