Remains of Disgraced Chinese Emperor Undergo DNA Analysis as more Treasures of His Tomb Are Revealed

Remains of Disgraced Chinese Emperor Undergo DNA Analysis as more Treasures of His Tomb Are Revealed

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The few remaining bones and teeth of a man who briefly ruled as emperor of ancient China and then was forced out for moral failings will undergo DNA analysis to shed light on his health, diet, and relatives.

Liu He ruled during the Western Han Dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 24 AD, for just 27 days when officials accused him of incompetence and banished him to Nanchang in 74 BC. He was given the title of Marquis of Haihun and was accorded a state burial when he died in 59 BC.

Archaeologists clean up the interior coffin of the 2,000-year-old tomb of Haihunhou, the Marquis of Haihun, in Nanchang, east China's Jiangxi Province. ( Xinhua)

The New Historian says that DNA analysis will also give insight into the people buried with the marquis and determine whether they were related.

The royal Han Dynasty dethroned the emperor because of his lack of talent and for intolerably indulging in pleasures, as Ancient Origins reported in November 2015. But when he died, insane, several years later, that didn’t stop them from giving him a fantastic burial with grave goods that included gold and silver items, 10 tons of bronze coins, musical instruments, chariots, and sacrificed horses, among other objects.

A chariot from the tomb being cleaned. ( Imaginechina)

One site says Liu He committed 1,127 acts of misconduct, though it did not specify what they were. Another site says “he was known for his inclination to pleasures already as a prince,” a situation that became insufferable when he took the throne. Though he was considered mad and was examined from time to time by officials, they made him the Marquis of Haihun.

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His tomb had not been looted when archaeologists opened it last year, though the marquis’ body had disintegrated because an earthquake flattened his coffin and water seeped in from a lake, according to the New Historian.

The Tomb of Haihunhou. (

Archaeologists are preparing to analyze and clean the interior of the coffin, in which they found a private seal, a belt, jade decorations, and a magnificent stitched and woven mat.

The mat consists of 2,000 rectangle swatches connected by gold strings. Li Cunxin, an archaeologist who is helping to excavate the mausoleum, told :

“Despite the popularity of the glazed mat, which can be found in many mausoleums built during the Han Dynasty, this glazed mat, discovered in Haihun Hou's coffin, is extraordinarily exquisite. Looking at the glazed mat, which the dead owner lied on, we can roughly figure the height of Liu He (known as Haihun Hou) to be somewhere between 170 to 175 centimeters [about 5 feet 8 inches].”

The stitched and woven mat. ( Ecns)

More than 10,000 artifacts have been recovered from the marquis’ tomb, which covered 46,000 square meters (almost 500,000 square feet). Buried near the marquis and his wife, were seven tombs of either his children or concubines.

The cemetery is so important that Chinese officials are directing subordinates to apply to the United Nations for World Heritage site status with UNESCO. Archaeologists think the site may have been the capital of the Haihun Kingdom, which was a small kingdom in the north of Jiangxi.

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In addition to the Wuzhu bronze coins and the chariots, the team has found more than 10,000 other gold, bronze and iron items, wooden tablets, bamboo slips and jade articles. The team has also discovered several musical instruments including chimes, an instrument with 25 strings called a se, pan flutes and a sheng or a reed-pipe wind instrument. They have found terracotta figurines that depict how to play the instruments as well.

One of the artifacts discovered in the tomb. (

Experts in archaeobotany, zooarchaeology and others who study metals, textiles and historical texts are documenting the site and recording data. The archaeobotanists may be interested in another recent find in the tomb complex: several sunflower seeds preserved in the belly of the remains of one of the deceased.

Featured Image: A turtle-shaped jade stamp found in the tomb of Liu He. Source: Xinhua

By Mark Miller