Western Zhou (1045 BC – 771 BC) burials at Baoji

April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

As the upcoming conference that I am attending is taking place at Baoji, I thought it would be appropriate to outline some of the fantastic and unique Western Zhou burials from the area.

There are three principal Early and Middle Western Zhou sites:

Zhuyuangou 竹園溝

Zhifangtou 紙坊頭

Riujiazhuang 茹家莊

Based on bronze inscriptions from the sites, the areas have been attributed to the Yu lineage (which mysteriously seems to disappear from the archaeological record in the Middle Western Zhou). The report on the Yu tombs was published in the 1980’s by Lu Liancheng and Hu Zhisheng.

One of the most unusual features at Baoji is that four of the tombs are double-occupant burials consisting of a lineage head and (presumably) his concubine interred in separate coffins in the same grave. No other Zhou cemetery site has yielded similar double-occupant burials, although it is common to find pairs of tombs (male-female) with graves clustered around them at other Zhou sites.


Tomb BZM7, Zhuyuangou. The principal tomb occupant was placed in the centre of the tomb with his concubine in the adjacent coffin. Zhongguo Shehui kexue Kaogu Yanjiusuo 中国社会科学考古研究所 2004: 120, fig. 3-27


Tomb BZM7 measured 4.3 meters long x 3.2 meters narrowing to 2.7 meters  wide x 4.3 meters deep. The principal tomb owner was placed in one outer coffin and two inner coffins. The outer coffin was 1.3 meters wide x 2.5 meters long x 0.85 meters high. The first inner coffin measured 2.2 meters long x 1.1 meters wide. The second inner coffin measured 2 meters long x 0.9 meters wide. The coffin was covered in red pigment.

The left side of the er ceng tai was wider than the right side in order to accommodate the smaller outer coffin adjacent to the principal tomb owner’s coffin. Both coffins were about 10 cm apart. The smaller outer coffin was 2.2 meters long x 0.5 meters wide x 0.45 meters high. The surface of the outer coffin was level with the bottom of the er ceng tai. The difference between the floor of the principal tombs owner’s coffin and the adjacent coffin was about 0.4 meters. Inside the outer coffin was a small inner coffin measuring about 1.8 meters long x 0.45 meters wide.

The principal tomb owner’s bronze vessels were placed on the er ceng tai. A second group of bronze vessels was placed on the left side of the er ceng tai, next to the concubine’s coffin. Other bronze object such as hairpins, combs and spoons accompanied the concubine’s set of bronze ritual vessels.

Objects were placed on the lid of the principal tomb owner’s outer coffin, but not on the lid of the concubine’s outer coffin. On the top left hand corner were horse objects and a bow shaped object (possibly a reins holder). On the middle of the outer coffin were other bronze objects. On the bottom left corner were further chariot and horse fittings.

In the principal tomb owner’s inner coffin were bronze objects, jade objects and beads. Between the concubine’s outer and inner coffins were bronze bells, shells and a bronze ladle.

At the bottom of the grave were four ceramic guan vessels near the principal tomb owner and five ceramic guan vessels near the concubine. In total, tomb BZM7 contained around 410 grave goods of bronze, jade, stone, bone and ceramic.

Equally remarkable as tomb BZM7  are tombs BRM1 and BRM2 at Rujiazhuang. Tomb BRM1 contained a lineage head with (presumably) his concubine, while tomb BRM2, which housed the wife of the lineage head in BRM1, was cut into the western wall of tomb BRM1.

The Tomb of Yu Bo, Er and Xingji. Tomb M2, situated on the right, belonged to the consort Xingji, while tomb M1 belonged to Yu Bo and the concubine, Er. Zhongguo Shehui kexue Kaogu Yanjiusuo 中国社会科学考古研究所 2004: 122, fig. 3-28.

Tombs BRM1 and BRM2 were not constructed contemporaneously. Given that tomb BRM2 cut into the wall of tomb BRM1, it is clear that the latter grave was earlier than the former one. The positioning of tomb BRM2 raises a number of questions about memory and remembrance and the construction and reiteration of familial relationships at burial.

The principal tomb occupant in BRM1 was placed in one outer coffin and two inner coffins. The outer coffin was 3.2 meters long x 2.4 meters wide x 2.26 meters deep, and his concubine’s outer coffin measured 3.2 meters long x 1.8 meters wide x 1.9 meters deep. The principal tomb occupant’s first inner coffin measured 2.6 meters long x 1.55 meters wide, and the second inner coffin measured 2.10 meters long x 0.95 meters wide. The concubine’s inner coffin measured 2.1 meters long x 0.9 meters in width. The gap between the coffins was about 0.20 meters.

The principal tomb occupant had eight accompanying attendants-in-death, including the concubine in the adjacent coffin. On the right side of the er ceng tai were eight ceramic guan vessels and four chariot wheels.

Bronze ritual vessels were placed between the concubine’s inner and outer coffin, including five bronze ding, four bronze gui, one bronze object and two ceramic cups. On the inner coffin were jade fish, mother of pearl fish, jade rabbit, three bronze fish and jade bingxingshi. Inside the inner coffin were jade animals, jade daggers, beads (around 800), jade disks, stone objects and bronze hairpins.

On the lid of the principal tomb owner’s outer coffin were horse and chariot objects. Between the outer and inner coffin in the top left corner were the principal tombs owner’s bronze ritual vessels, including nine ding, five gui, one yan, two li, one you, three animal zun, two round zun, one lei, two jue, one zhi, one dou, one pan, two hu, three large bells, and two bronze horse objects.

Tomb BRM1 contained a very unusual set of bronze ritual vessels.

Matching sets of ding and gui vessels from the tomb of Er at Rujiazhuang. Lu Liancheng and Hu Zhisheng 1988, vol. 2, pl. 154: 1 and 153.1

By contrast, the lineage head in tomb BRM1 was interred with vessels of different shapes, sizes, weights and ornamentation. The following selection of bronze vessels come from tomb BRM1:

Tomb BRM1 also had three accompanying horse and chariot pits. And, while larger accompanying chariot pits with more chariot and horses interred therein have been found at other Zhou sites, the pits from Baoji are nonetheless still impressive and remind us of the extravagance of the funeral.

Chariot pit BRCH3. Lu Liancheng and Hu Zhisheng 1988, vol. 2, pl. CCXI: 1 and vol. 2 391, fig. 2.66


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