The Oldest Silk


Pieces of History in Hong Kong

The Oldest Silk


You must make a special trip to the China Resources Building in Harbor Road, Wanchai. Take the escalator to the first floor and follow the arrows leading to the Museum of Chinese Historical Relics. The trip is worth making – for a modest fee you can feast your eyes on a large collection of fascinating and valuable historical objects.

The outstanding exhibits are the discoveries from the Mawangdui tombs in the region of Changsha. These were the tombs of the marquis of “Dai”, who ruled there between 139-186 B.C.; Xing-Zhui, the wife of Li-cheng, who was the first marquis of “Dai”; and their son. The tombs were excavated between 1972 and 1914 and revealed material previously unknown and of tremendous importance to the history of Chinese art.

Among the important discoveries were silk manuscripts with more than 120,000 characters written on them, several silk paintings of great beauty, 500 pieces of lacquerware, numerous silk fabrics and garments, wooden sculptures, musical instruments, herbal medicine, and the well-preserved corpse of Xing-Zhui. The flesh is still resilient, the hair intact and the colour of the internal organs remarkably natural.

The tombs were found buried deep under the ground and sealed by a thick layer of white clay, which archaeologists say might have helped to keep the objects in their remarkable state of preservation. The lacquerware looks brand new and there is a silk robe, in part painted in colour with small delicate patterns.To have found such a robe well over 2000 years old so well preserved is astonishing.

The silk manuscripts cover subjects such as philosophy, history, military, medicine and astronomy and show.

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