Rolling between Burial and Shrine A Tale of Two Chariot Processions at Chulan Tomb 2 in Eastern Han China (171 C.E.)

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Jie Shi

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Abstract




Chulan Tomb 2 (dated to 171 C.E.) in present-day Suxian, Anhui province, offers the rare opportunity to study the hitherto unknown relationship between multiple depictions of chariot processions—one of the most popular pictorial motifs in Eastern Han funerary art—at different locations in a single cemetery. Comparing this tomb’s two chariot processions in stylistic, iconographic, and positional terms, this paper draws attention to a special dragon motif that ornaments a few special chariots and argues that these “dragon chariots,” unique among stone carvings of the Eastern Han, were meant to carry the deceased couple, who were buried separately but received joint sacrifices in their shared shrine. Unlike previous studies, which focus on either the shrine or the burial as self-contained units, this paper approaches the entire cemetery as an organic architectural and pictorial nexus without breaking the narrative link between its units. This case study of depictions of chariot processions presents a dynamic view of the afterlife during the Eastern Han dynasty: the burial and the shrine formed two temporary stops rather than permanent homes for the deceased souls, which were ceaselessly traveling on the posthumous road.




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