繁華落盡兩千年──漢代文物大展

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1999 / 10月

文‧蔡文婷


兩千年前,木匠之子耶穌誕生於伯利恆城,是紀元的開始。而紀元之初,正是中國漢平帝繼位的元始元年,在此前後的兩百年,正是大漢盛世,也是中國漢民族名稱的來源。

半世紀之前,人們只能憑著史籍典章遙想大漢天威,自從一九七二年,幾座漢代墓葬陸續出土後,隨著豐富的絲織品、殉葬木俑、竹簡等眾多陪葬品,真實地呈現了兩千年前老祖宗的生活樣貌。

九月二十一日起,在國立故宮博物院策劃的《漢代文物大展》中,除了故宮典藏的漢代文物,還有來自湖南長沙馬王堆及廣東南越王墓的兩百五十多件珍貴文物。展期將跨越千禧年,直到公元兩千年的二月二十五日為止。

千禧年交替,當人們忙著展望未來之際,何不讓我們藉著漢代古文物,探索兩千年前老祖宗的生活與世界?


一九七二年到一九七四年間,在湖南省長沙市東郊的「馬王堆」,挖出了三座漢墓,墓主為漢初長沙國丞相利蒼與他的妻子辛追及兒子。井字形大木槨的中間,放著四層的棺木。四周放滿眾多的木俑、竹簡、帛畫、漆器、織繡服飾、銅器、陶器等豐富陪葬品。琳瑯滿目的器物,宛若一座地下宮殿,反映出漢代的生活文化。

「在所有漢代文物的挖掘中,馬王堆不僅時間最早,而且未經盜挖,特別是棺槨和女屍,還有『非衣』和帛書都完整保存,因此引起世界注目,」湖南省博物館館長熊傳薪指出,馬王堆的重要性。尤其是大量的帛書,更讓今人見識到漢代在天文、地理、科技、醫藥、養生等各方面的非凡成就。

經過故宮三年的策劃,這兩百五十多件珍貴文物,終於越過兩千多年的時光,以及台海兩岸的阻隔,與國人相見。

兩千年前的睡美人

文物中,首先引起話題的是利蒼夫人的屍體。這個沈睡兩千年的漢代睡美人,藉助於上萬斤木炭的防潮,及一百多公分厚的白膏泥密封,出土時,身上裹有十八層錦衣,頭髮烏黑的利蒼夫人,肌膚猶有彈性,部分關節尚能活動,彷彿生人,完全異於埃及乾黑的木乃伊。

而另一件舉世聞名的T形帛畫(非衣),是古人出殯時張舉的一種旌幡,入葬後隨葬品覆在棺木上。帛畫上,分為天上、人間和地下三層。天上有日月星辰,兩旁神龍相向,中間是人首蛇身的天神。人間部分,三個侍女陪著墓主辛追,告別人間,緩緩升天。地底下,則有巨人托舉著大地,和一些怪獸。畫的主題反映出,早在佛教傳入中國之前,中國人天上、人間、地下的宇宙觀;還有死後靈魂歸天的生死觀。這件集美術及文化思維於一身的文物,也是熊傳薪最為推薦的一件展品。

「故宮《漢代文物大展 》,是以文物為表現,文化為內涵,讓觀眾對兩千年前的中華文化有更深刻的認識,」故宮博物院院長秦孝儀指出,例如古人在竹簡上書寫,將信件以泥封箋。特別是那一座銅牛燈,中空的牛角煙囪直通裝著水的牛肚子,如此一來,油燈燃燒時的煙就可隨著牛角溶於水中,而不造成任何空氣污染,更可見古人的聰慧。

精彩的器物之外,利蒼之子的三號墓室中,出現十六萬字左右的竹簡、帛書,宛若一座豐富的地下圖書館,訴說著兩千年前的文化思想與生活。其中氣功導引圖、醫書、天文彗星圖、農業專書,都與今人息息相關。

近來氣功盛行,被視為最佳保健運動,自馬王堆出土的《導引圖》是文獻中最早的氣功動作圖譜。導引圖上畫有四十四個人,不分男女老少,或伸展或側體,或屈膝或仰身;有的像笨熊爬樹,有的如小鳥般舒展身體;有的手持木棍,彎腰下俯,藉著上身下移的姿勢導引氣行,排出體內邪氣,達到陰陽調和之目的。

更令人驚訝的是,《天文氣象雜占》中繪有二十九幅彗星圖,準確地畫出了每一幅彗星的彗核、彗髮和慧尾,是目前世界上最早的彗星圖。而《五星占》裡,則記錄木星、土星與金星運行的位置,還有土星繞太陽一週需時三十年,都和現代的觀測估算相差不大,可知漢代天文學的發達。

本次來台展出,除了馬王堆文物,還有與其臨界的南越王墓出土文物。南越王是秦朝將領趙佗,在漢代一統天下之後,並未歸降,反自封為王。

南越王墓的來展精品有雕工精巧、造型獨特的玉珮,還有僭越的「萬歲」瓦當。而欄杆柱頭、大花磚、階梯踏步等建築構件,來自最近五年才挖掘的南越國宮苑遺跡,是中國最早的宮院實例。

蜿蜒曲折的水流石渠,密排著一層灰黑卵石,還有黃白色大型卵石點綴其間,當水流流沖過大小卵石時,蘇東坡筆下「曲池流水細粼粼」聲狀皆美的景色自現眼前。可知中國古代園林的佈局、借景已經成熟運用了。

文化不死

為了赴台展出,馬王堆的文物經過九百公里的路上旅行,從湖南到廣東與南越王墓文物會合,再歷經數天的船運,跨越兩岸的政治阻隔,並呈在我們的眼前。

兩千年前,這兩個相對於漢代都城的邊陲地方,一方面受到大漢文化的影響,一方面又展現地方自我風采。馬王堆的漆器紋飾流露著楚文化的浪漫傳說;南越王墓則有南國自己三撇足的越式鼎和提筒。

而馬王堆這個漢朝的封王與自立為王的南越國,兩千年前關係緊張、劍拔弩張。從馬王堆出土、世界最早的《駐軍圖》標示中,可發現兩國交界之處,軍防嚴密,並且廣設烽火臺。

「繁華事散逐香塵,流水無情草自春」,兩千年過去了,兵嘶馬咧的烽火爭鬥皆已化為烏有,唯有古物留世、共聚一堂,讓後人在歷史長河之中,發現過去,找到自己。

p.24

這是故宮今年繼「三星堆傳奇」之後的另一大展,院長秦孝儀(右一)主持開箱記者會,器物處處長張光遠展示零污染的銅牛燈。(卜華志攝)

p.25

馬王堆出土的《導引圖》,彷彿今天的公園晨運百態,找找看,哪些是你熟悉的氣功招式?(故宮博物院提供)

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EN

National Palace Museum Exhibits Han Dynasty Artifacts

Tsai Wen-ting /tr. by David Mayer

China's Han dynasty flourished from roughly two centuries before the birth of Christ until about two centuries after. In the same year that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the emperor Han Ping ascended the throne in China. What was life like in China twenty centuries ago?

A half-century ago, our image of the Han period still rested entirely upon what we could learn from historical records, but all that changed beginning in 1972 thanks to a series of major archeological finds at a number of tombs dating back to the Han dynasty. A huge quantity of silks, wooden tomb figurines, bamboo slips used for writing, and other burial items cast an entirely new light upon the way Chinese people lived two millennia ago.

An exhibit entitled Art and Culture of the Han Dynasty opened on September 21 at Taipei's National Palace Museum (NPM). In addition to items from NPM's own collection, the exhibit also features over 250 artifacts from the tombs at Mawangdui in Changsha (Hunan Province) and the royal tomb of the Nanyue kingdom in Guangdong. The exhibit will continue through through February 25th next year.

As we approach a new millennium, all eyes are on the future, but perhaps it would be a good idea as well to use these ancient artifacts to take a look back at the way our ancestors lived.


From 1972 through 1974, three Han dynasty tombs were excavated in Mawangdui (located on the eastern outskirts of Changsha). One of the tombs belonged to Li Cang, the marquis of Dai (who ruled over the kingdom of Changsha in the manner of a feudal prince). The other two belonged to his wife and son. Each person was buried in a coffin nestled inside three successively larger ones, and each nestled coffin structure was itself contained inside a larger outer sarcophagus. The outer coffins were surrounded with a wide variety of burial objects, including wooden tomb figurines, bamboo slips, silk banners, lacquerware, embroidery, bronze pieces, ceramics, and more. These tombs, with their copious collections of luxury items, are veritable underground palaces, and they tell us much about life in the Han dynasty.

According to Xiong Chuanxin, director of the Hunan Provincial Museum, "Mawangdui is the oldest of all the Han sites that have been excavated, and it hasn't been hit by grave robbers. Mawangdui has attracted great interest around the world especially due to the fact that its coffins, the body of the marquise of Dai, the funerary banners, and the silk manuscripts are so well preserved." He particularly emphasizes the importance of the large numbers of silk manuscripts, which show us the brilliant achievements of the Han dynasty in such fields as astronomy, geography, technology, medicine, and health.

After three years of planning by NPM, more than 250 precious Han-dynasty artifacts have finally managed to travel across two millennia and transcend the current cross-strait political friction to make their way to a face-to-face meeting with the people of Taiwan.

The original "Sleeping Beauty"

The most outstanding artifact from Mawangdui is the feudal prince's wife, the marquise of Dai. This 2,000-year-old sleeping beauty has "preserved her good looks" by being sealed in a plaster cast over 100 centimeters thick and using over 5,000 kilos of charcoal to dehumidify her tomb. When she was unearthed, archeologists found her wrapped in 18 layers of silk. Her hair was still black, some of her skin still retained a hint of suppleness, and her joints could still bend. Unlike the mummies of Egypt, the marquise seemed almost like a living person after centuries in the tomb.

Another artifact that has riveted the world's attention is a T-shaped funerary banner made of silk. This type of banner was frequently used in ancient China as a burial item. Once the body was enclosed in the tomb, these banners were laid over the coffin. The banner found at Mawangdui is painted with many different scenes, with upper, middle, and lower parts to represent heaven, earth, and the netherworld. Shown in heaven are the sun, moon, and stars. Two dragons face each other on the left and right, while the center ground is occupied by a divine serpent with a human head. In the section representing earth, the marquise ascends slowly toward heaven, attended by three female servants. In the netherworld, a giant supports the weight of the earth, and a few monsters are also depicted. The imagery of this banner shows clearly that even before the introduction of Buddhism, the Chinese people already had a cosmic view that included heaven, earth, and a netherworld. It is also apparent that the Chinese had the idea of people going to heaven after death. This banner combines high aesthetic refinement with a demonstration of the culture and thinking of ancient China, for which Xiong Chuanxin considers it one of the highlights of the exhibit.

NPM director Chin Hsiao-yi states: "This exhibit uses artifacts as the physical manifestation of a culture. It enables the visitor to gain a much clearer understanding of the Chinese culture of 2,000 years ago." One will learn from this exhibit, for example, that people used to write on thin bamboo slips, and that they sealed their bamboo letters in mud. In addition, a bronze oil lamp in the form of a bull offers an intriguing insight into the ingenuity of our ancestors. A pair of hollow horns route the smoke from the lamp to the bull's abdomen, which is filled with water, where the smoke dissolves. It is an ingenious method of preventing the lamp from smoking up the room.

Bamboo slips and silk manuscripts containing some 160,000 characters of written text were discovered in Tomb 3, the final resting place of the marquis' son. This tomb constitutes an invaluable source of first-hand information on the culture and thought of two millennia ago. Included in this "library" is information on a variety of subjects that remain very pertinent even today-qigong, medicine, comets, and agriculture.

Qigong, in particular, is very popular today, and is seen by many as an excellent way to maintain good health. The qigong diagram unearthed at Mawangdui is the oldest known record showing various qigong movements.

The qigong diagram shows 44 persons of all descriptions, both young and old, male and female. Some are stretching, others are shown in profile, and still others are kneeling or lying face-up. Some look like clumsy bears trying to climb a tree, while others engage in agile contortions. Some hold wooden staves in hand and bend over in an effort to summon their good qi, rid their bodies of bad qi, and bring the yin and yang into harmony.

Even more surprising is the world's oldest known cometary atlas. It consists of paintings that accurately depict the nucleus, coma, and tail of 29 different types of comets. In addition, an astronomical chart records the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus, and it notes that Saturn orbits the Sun once every 30 years. All of these observations almost perfectly match the findings of modern science.

In addition to the Mawangdui artifacts, another important part of the NPM exhibit is a collection of items from the royal tomb of the Nanyue kingdom, which bordered upon the kingdom of Changsha. Nanyue was ruled by Zhao Tuo, a Qin dynasty general who refused to submit to the newly established Han dynasty and chose instead to establish a kingdom of his own.

Artifacts from the king's tomb include exquisitely crafted jade ornaments as well as roof tiles inscribed with the phrase "Long live the emperor!" There are also a number of architectural elements in the exhibit, including banisters, column capitals, tiles, and flagstones from the king's palace. These items have all just been excavated in the past five years, and are highly significant finds as they come from the oldest royal palace ever discovered in China.

The exhibit also reproduces a beautiful stream paved with small, closely packed dark-gray pebbles interspersed with larger yellowish pebbles. The stream gurgles pleasingly as it flows over the pebbles, giving eloquent testimony to the highly advanced skills of garden landscapers during the Han dynasty.

People die, culture lives on

To get to Taiwan, the Mawangdui artifacts first had to travel 900 kilometers overland from Hunan to Guangdong, where they "met up" with the exhibit items from the Nanyue tomb. It then took a few days from them to jump through political hoops while being shipped to Taipei, where they are now on display at NPM.

Both of these two Han-period provincial metropolises fell under the influence of the capital even as they gave expression to a unique local flavor. The decorative patterns on the Mawangdui lacquerware show clearly how the culture of the ancient kingdom of Chu spread outward. Other notable items include a three-legged wine vessel and a pail from the Nanyue tomb.

The political relationship between the two powerful men who left behind these fabulous treasures is interesting to contemplate. In Mawangdui, the marquis enjoyed a fiefdom that had been awarded to him by the same Han court against which the king of Nanyue was rebelling. Relations between the two were extremely tense, with war always about to break out at any time. The oldest military maps in the world were among the treasures unearthed at Mawangdui, and they indicate the deployment of formidable defenses at the two areas where the kingdom of Nanyue bordered upon the fiefdom of the marquis of Dai. Towers for transmitting military smoke signals constituted a notable feature of the landscape at that time. How ironic it is that the snarling combatants of old have passed so completely from the earth, leaving only these relics to reunite peaceably in a modern museum!

p.24

National Palace Museum director Chin Hsiao-yi (right), hosting a press conference for the museum's latest major exhibit. Chang Kuang-yuan, head of the artifacts department, shows off this zero-pollution lamp at the event. (photo by Pu Hua-chih)

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This painted manuscript from Mawangdui depicts a scene that looks very similar to what you'll find early in the morning at any Taipei park, with people doing their morning exercises everywhere. Take a closer look-do you recognize any of the qigong exercises?

(courtesy of the National Palace Museum)

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