Artifacts provide insight into the prosperity of the Song Dynasty


The Song dynasty (960-1279) is divided into two distinct periods, Northern and Southern. During the Northern Song (960-1127), the royal court built its capital in present-day Kaifeng City, Henan Province. He then retreated south of the Yangtze River and established the Southern Song (1127-1279), founding his capital in present-day Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province.

The Zhejiang government launched the Song Dynasty Cultural Heritage Project in August 2021, aiming to establish Song culture as a primary icon of Zhejiang province, showcasing elements of Zhejiang and distinguishing it from other dynasties by its booming economy and reinvigorated art.

This year, Hangzhou will host a series of Southern Song-themed activities and exhibitions to help locals explore the cultural heritages of the whole city and popularize historical knowledge among younger generations.

Ti Gong

A large number of carved tiles and carved bricks unearthed at the Shaoxing Imperial Mausoleum site are on display.

After 10 years of excavation, 159 antiquities excavated from an imperial mausoleum of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) are on display at the Southern Song Imperial Furnace Museum in Hangzhou until Oct. 15.

The Southern Song dynasty made Hangzhou their capital and established a royal mausoleum in the city of Shaoxing for their emperors.

In 2012, the central government authorized the Zhejiang Institute of Archeology to excavate the tombs. So far, more than 350,000 square meters have been unearthed with myriad relics.

As the largest, best-preserved and most important imperial mausoleum of the Southern Song Dynasty ever found in southern China, it is considered the epitome of politics, culture and design. gardens of this period.

The exhibition features porcelain vessels, tiles, stone figurines and architecture as well as reproduced models to give visitors a complete picture of this flourishing dynasty.

The Southern Song dynasty had a rigid ritual system named “Wu Yin Xing Li (五音姓利)”, covering music, feng shui, astronomy and funeral etiquette.

Traditionally, ancient Chinese music used a pentatonic scale whose notes were called gong (宫), shang (商), game (角), zhi (徵) and you (羽). The Song royal family believed that each name corresponded to a scale while their surname Zhao corresponded to the scale of juice.

This music and surname system designated feng shui arrangement.

The location of the imperial tombs strictly respected the feng shui concept corresponding to juice.

The ancient Chinese used astronomy and the compass to establish four directions, which were a bit different from modern north, south, east and west.

“This ‘Wu Yin Xing Li‘ system was carried through the entire dynasty. It was a distinct feature of the imperial court in the fields of culture and politics,” said Li Huida of the Zhejiang Institute of Archeology, which has excavated the mausoleum for years.

“The royal mausoleum was to the south-east in a feng shui treasure land and oriented to the northwest according to the ritual system. »

The Southern Song Dynasty mausoleums in Zhejiang Province also share a similar feature: they shifted from underground palaces to outer buildings. The social status of the owner was reflected in pavilions, temples and ground arcades. That we call cuangong (攒宫).

Cuangong refers to the temporary exterior buildings that covered the actual burial place of the coffin.

“When the funeral was over, the royal court destroyed the cuangong to protect the real grave. That’s why not intact cuangong stayed,” Li said.

Artifacts provide insight into the prosperity of the Song Dynasty

Ti Gong

Ceramic fragments discovered at the site testify to the aesthetic taste of the royal families of the Southern Song Dynasty.

Engraved tiles, porcelains, carved bricks and painted structures have been discovered. The main task of archaeologists is to reproduce the models of cuangong and comb through the remaining architectural structures, foundations and tiles.

The exhibition shows tiles with floral motifs found in the mausoleum. Richly decorated, they are among the most precious vestiges of the architecture of this period.

The Southern Song dynasty is considered the pinnacle of Chinese art. The royal court favored the humanities, appealing to people’s inner emotions with a minimalist artistic style that is evident in tiles and porcelains.

Ceramic fragments from Longquan, Jingdezhen, Jizhou and Jian kilns, covering whitish, bluish, greenish and yellowish incense burners, bowls, plates and vases, were found at the mausoleum.

Ancient craftsmen in Zhejiang Province integrated the techniques of different varieties of Chinese ceramics to develop multiple shades of green glaze and named them “celadon”.

Zhejiang became the center of celadon art and produced a large number of renowned works of art throughout history.

Celadon towered over the unearthed porcelains of the mausoleum. Subdued nuances and quiet simplicity are the main characteristics of the exposed ceramics made during this period.

Song dynasty artists created several classic designs, which have persisted in national art for centuries.

Today, some of them are still the most common types of celadon, as exhibits show.

During the construction of the mausoleum, the East Zhejiang Canal actually played a vital role in the transportation of resources. Since the ritual system required the mausoleum to be completed within five to six months, the canal accelerated the construction process.

“It reflects to some extent the rise of the dynasty’s economy and transportation system,” Li said.

Southern Song Imperial Mausoleum Relics Exhibition

Date: until October 15, closed on Mondays
Admission fee
Address: 60 Nanfu Road

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