400px, Top view of the '' Bianzhong of Marquis Yi of Zeng'' The Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng () is an archaeological site in Leigudun Community (), Nanjiao Subdistrict (), Zengdu District, Suizhou (during the
Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was men ...
called Sui County),
Hubei Hubei (; Postal romanization, alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the Central China region. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to i ...
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...
, dated sometime after 433 BC. The tomb contained the remains of Marquis Yi of Zeng (sometimes "Duke Yi"), and is one of a handful of ancient Chinese royal tombs to have been discovered intact and then excavated using modern archaeological methods. Zeng was a state during the Spring and Autumn period of China. The tomb was made around 433 BC, either at the end of the
Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was men ...
or the start of the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest ...
. The tomb comes from the end of the thousand-year-long period of the burial of large sets of Chinese ritual bronzes in elite tombs, and is also unusual in containing large numbers of musical instruments, including the great set of bells for which it is most famous.

Discovery and layout

People's Liberation Army The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the regular army, regular armed forces of the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) and the armed wing of the PRC's founding and ruling political party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Besides the Ce ...
accidentally discovered the tomb in 1977 while destroying a hill to build a factory at Leigudun. The tomb was constructed of large wooden timbers and covers an area of 220 square meters. The date "''jiayin'' 3rd day" () written on an astronomical diagram on a lacquered clothing chest from the tomb is believed to be the date of the Marquis's death or an important date in his life, and has been extrapolated to the evening of the 3rd day of the third lunar month of 433 BC. The tomb is divided into four separate chambers, resembling the layout of a palace of the day. The northern chamber is the smallest and contained military artifacts. The eastern chamber contained the tomb of Marquis Yi, who was buried in a wooden
lacquer The term lacquer is used for a number of hard and potentially shiny finishes applied to materials such as wood or metal. These fall into a number of very different groups. The term ''lacquer'' originates from the Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attri ...
coffin nested inside a larger lacquer coffin. This chamber also contained eight other coffins that held the remains of eight women. The western chamber contained thirteen coffins that held the remains of thirteen other women. The central chamber is the largest, and contained a large ensemble of ritual musical instruments, including a set of 64 ''
'' (
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper Copper is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductility, ductile metal with very high thermal con ...
bell A bell is a struck idiophone, directly struck idiophone percussion instrument. Most bells have the shape of a hollow cup that when struck vibrates in a single strong strike tone, with its sides forming an efficient resonator. The strike may be m ...
s). In 1981, a less well-preserved and smaller tomb was discovered about 100 meters away, containing the remains of a woman related to Marquis Yi. This tomb contained a less extravagant set of 36 bronze bells and other musical instruments.


Musical instruments

The most famous discovery at the tomb is the large set of 64 ''
'' bells, mounted on an elaborate framework, which required a cast of five members to be played, and were struck with wooden mallets to produce music. The bells are two-toned, producing two distinct tones when struck at the center or the side; this property is enabled because the bells have an almond-shaped cross-section. The bells cover a range of five octaves. The collection also contains a non-matching bell, a
to Marquis Yi from King Hui of Chu, recording King Hui's rushed trip from the west to create the bell and attend the Marquis's funeral during the 56th year of King Hui's reign; the inscription on the bell dates the event to 433 BC. The bells were inscribed with music notations that detailed the relationship among the pitch standards of Zeng, Chu and Zhou dynasty, Zhou. Other musical instruments in the ensemble include stone chimes. Various string instruments were also discovered in the tombs, including ''Se (instrument), se'', ''guqin, qin'' and ''Zhu (string instrument), zhu''. The tomb also contained pan flutes (''paixiao''), flutes and special ''sheng (instrument), sheng'', each made from a one-piece body through a time-consuming procedure; a gourd would be placed inside a mold that held the desired shape of the instrument. Once the gourd matured, it would take the shape of the mold that conformed to the desired musical properties of the instrument.

Ritual bronzes

Along with the Late Shang dynasty tomb of Fu Hao, the tomb represents one of the largest sets of Chinese ritual bronzes, ritual bronze vessels to be properly recorded at the site. Most of the large number of ritual bronzes extant are individual pieces, or pairs, with no archaeological context recorded, but it is becoming clear that most pieces would have originally come from large groups deposited in an elite tomb. The tomb had a total of 88 vessels and implements such as ladles and shovels, with many matching sets of a particular type of vessel. The decoration of the vessels is highly elaborate, with many protruding elements. The largest vessel is a unique ''pan'' wine vessel in two pieces, 33 cm high and nearly as wide. There are two different sets of the ''Ding (vessel), ding'' type of cauldron, typically a key component of late sets of vessels: 9 matching open ''sheng ding'', 5 matching with covers, and seven individual ''ding'', two very large. There is a matching set of 9 of the smaller ''li'' type of cauldron. Other vessels include a set of 8 covered ''Gui (vessel), gui'' for holding grain, 4 ''fǔ'' () square sacrificial vessels, 10 cups on legs, four ''fou'', and several other pairs or individual pieces.Rawson, 351-353; 68-69

Other contents

In addition to aesthetic artifacts, the tomb contained a trove of weaponry, including arrowheads, dagger-axes spear tips and Chariot (Ancient China), chariot wheel spokes. This tomb is important in the history of Ancient Chinese glass, as it contains 173 eye beads that were made in a western Asian style, similar to some found in Gilan, Iran. The earliest examples of Chinese ink writings on bamboo (Zhujian) were discovered in this tomb, showing the calligraphic styles of the Chu or Zeng state. They recorded the people who attended the Marquis's funeral, such as the officials and royalty of the Chu and Zeng states and also included details of their transportation, such as number of horses carrying the chariots. These bamboo slips provide important information on the development of Chinese brush calligraphy.

See also

* List of Chinese cultural relics forbidden to be exhibited abroad



*Jessica Rawson, Rawson, Jessica (ed). ''The British Museum Book of Chinese Art'', 2007 (2nd edn), British Museum Press, * So, Jenny F., (2000), ''Music in the Age of Confucius'', Washington, Smithsonian, * Kwan, Simon, ''Early Chinese Glass.'' * von Falkenhausen, Lothar. (1993). ''Suspended Music: Chime Bells in the Culture of Bronze Age China.'' Berkeley, University of California Press. {{coord missing, Hubei 5th century BC in China 1977 archaeological discoveries Archaeological sites in China Chu (state) Major National Historical and Cultural Sites in Hubei Tombs in China Zhou dynasty bronzeware