Secrets Beneath: Ancient Chinese Burial Practices and Beliefs at the Old Fulling Mill

By Culture24 Staff | 17 May 2011
A photo of a large circular bronze design
A finely decorated bronze mirror was a companion of choice for the ancient Chinese afterlife travellers
Exhibition: Secrets Beneath: Ancient Chinese Burial Practices and Beliefs, Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology, Durham, May 27 – September 6 2011

Rather than concerning themselves with haunting old flames or taunting exorcists, the ancient Chinese hankered for an afterlife of earthly pleasures.

The high and mighty among China’s elite commissioned elaborate bronze vessels for food and drink, burying themselves alongside models of the servants, granaries and animals they had left behind or protecting their rotting corpses with finely carved pieces of jade, a stone entrusted with magical qualities.

In response to this, students on the Museum and Artefact Studies course at Durham University have compiled a showcase of some of these beautiful tomb temptations of the Han dynasty, ranging from burial masks to fine ceramics.

The Old Fulling Mill wants visitors to become playfully absorbed in the deathly supernatural theme, collecting some of the immortalised objects in an attempt to find the owner of their tomb.

“The students have tackled the issue of death in an interesting and engaging way,” says curator Craig Barclay.

“The activities in the exhibition are a fun way of challenging visitors to reflect on their own beliefs. In doing so, we compare our own beliefs to those of the past.”

  • Open 11am-4pm. Admission £1/50p (free for under-5s and students).
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