To be immortal - chinese jade burial suites, 2200 years old.

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Just 15 of the extraordinary head-to-toe jade suits that promised immortality to the Chinese imperial family have ever been found. During the reign of Chinese dynasties, the ancient Chinese believed that when a person dies, he or she entered into the after life. Death was comprehended as a prolongation of life, and an emperor's mausoleum was his after-life palace, mirroring his regal life on earth. All of the daily comforts of their past life such as servants, attendants, objects, pets, wives, guardians, concubines, food and drink were to be provided for them in the after life. This was accomplished by burying all of these things with the deceased when they died. As an ancient Chinese philosopher said, "Treat death as life." It was not uncommon to kill people in order to be buried with their master, but as dynasties evolved clay replicas replaced the real thing.

Corpses, such as that of emperor Liu Sheng and his wife the princess Dou Wan, have been found in spectacular jade suits made of thousands of small plaques sewn together with gold thread. The Chinese believed that jade would protect the corpses from decay; it was a symbol of life and vitality. Liu Sheng's tomb in Mancheng, Hebei was built like an actual house with horses, stables, windows, storerooms with cookbooks and even a bathroom! Most of the 2,800 goods found in this tomb are unique and include the jade suits and other jade products, the famous Changxin Palace lantern and a gold-inlaid furnace.

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. The finished suites were respectively called "gold thread sewn jade burial suit", "silver thread sewn jade burial suit" and "copper thread sewn jade burial suit". The shape of the suit was the same as a human body. The cost of making a medium-sized jade burial suit was almost equal to the property values of 100 then middle-class families put together. You can have an idea what an extravagance the suit was.

The most representative jade suit is the gold thread sewn jade suit found in the tomb of Liu Sheng in Mancheng, Hebei Province. It consists of 2,498 jade plates of different sizes that are joined with gold threads of over 1,000 grams. It was completed by more than 100 craftsmen in over two years.  Jade suits were first documented in literature around AD 320, although there is archaeological proof of their existence over half a millennium before. However, their existence wasn’t confirmed until 1968, when the tomb of Prince Liu Sheng and his wife Princess Dou Wan of the Han Dynasty was discovered. Believed to be one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century, the undisturbed tomb was unearthed in the Hebei Province behind a wall of iron between two brick walls and a corridor packed with stone.

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