App | 中文 |
HOME >> NEWS >> PHOTOS

Remembering a bronze age queen

Wang Kaihao
Updated: Mar 15,2016 9:58 AM     China Daily

The ongoing exhibition at the Capital Museum features a replica of Fu Hao’s tomb, and virtual-reality glasses allow visitors to see facades of the Shang palaces.[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

She is a warrior. She is a queen.

If the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th-11th century BC) is the zenith of the Bronze Age in China, she is probably its most shining example.

On International Women’s Day, which fell on March 8, Fu Hao (Hao is the surname and Fu means a woman in Chinese), a female legend from 3,000-odd years ago was reintroduced to the public in the exhibition hall of Beijing’s Capital Museum.

The exhibition, Queen, Mother, General: 40th Anniversary of Excavating the Shang Tomb of Fu Hao, has 441 cultural relics on display, ranging from bronzeware and jade objects to pottery and oracle bones-telling her story in a unique way.

The ongoing exhibition at the Capital Museum features a replica of Fu Hao’s tomb, and virtual-reality glasses allow visitors to see facades of the Shang palaces.[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

Since the discovery of Fu Hao’s tomb in Anyang, Henan province, in 1976, the site has been one of the longest continuously studied sites in China. It is also the only intact Shang rulers’ family tomb found, and 1,928 funerary objects have been unearthed in the past few decades. Consequently, the site is generally considered as a milestone in the country’s history of archaeology.

Black and red were the colors adored by rulers in the Shang Dynasty, and they set the tone for the museum journey back in time. Cloth curtains and “pearl” drapery give the display a certain feminine charm.

“The relics have to be displayed in a certain atmosphere to reflect their values and better tell the story,” says Li Dandan, artistic designer of the exhibition.

The ongoing exhibition at the Capital Museum features a replica of Fu Hao’s tomb, and virtual-reality glasses allow visitors to see facades of the Shang palaces.[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

“Visitors have no idea of what Fu Hao looked like, but we can usher them into her world with a gentle approach,” she says.

Nevertheless, Fu Hao is not a common queen who hid behind a veil. As one of the wives of Wu Ding, a king of the Shang Dynasty whose reign lasted for 58 years, she is known as a female general assisting her husband.

According to Feng Hao, a history researcher at the Capital Museum and curator of the exhibition, she led at least four major wars against surrounding tribes. She even mobilized as many as 13,000 soldiers for a military expedition, an extraordinary achievement in her time.

“This reflects her charisma and power,” says Feng. “Though we also found tombs of Wu Ding’s other wives, Fu Hao’s tomb is closest to the palace relics, which reveal her status in the king’s heart.”

The ongoing exhibition at the Capital Museum features a replica of Fu Hao’s tomb, and virtual-reality glasses allow visitors to see facades of the Shang palaces.[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

A replica of the tomb has been created in the exhibition hall, and virtual-reality glasses provide an opportunity for visitors to see facades of the Shang palaces, which are created by archaeologists based on their studies.

“Intermittent wars were a common thing during the Shang Dynasty. So you cannot blame Fu Hao for her brutality, because that was the way it was in that time,” he adds.

A bronze yue axe is among the exhibits, which shows her status as a top military commander.

However, a delicate monster-shaped bone hairpin shows a gentler side of this battlefield heroine. Exhibits like a jade dragon and jade parrots with connected tails also remind people of her pursuit of aesthetics.

[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

Several jade figurines on display show the general appearance of the Shang people.

A bronze owl-shaped zun wine vessel with complex ornamentation not only epitomizes flamboyance, but reminds people of animated animals today.

Some unearthed articles are from earlier periods of history-like the late Neolithic Period-which Feng says reflect her wealth and fine taste.

Finds from recent years are also included into the exhibition.

For example, after Fu Hao’s death, she was betrothed by Wu Ding to his late father. Though it may sound strange today, Feng says that it reflects the king’s homage to his ancestors and his love for his wife.

[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

“He wanted Fu Hao to be blessed by the ancestors. In the early part of Chinese civilization, a necromantic culture played an important role.”

There are other unresolved mysteries about her. Fu Hao is generally believed to have died before turning 50, and some scholars speculate she could have died in her 30s. But no conclusive proof is available to prove either assumption.

The ongoing exhibition is a part of the Capital Museum’s series of special events marking its 35th anniversary.

According to Bai Jie, the head of the museum, relics from the Fu Hao tomb are scattered among different institutions nationwide, but are mainly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and with the Henan Museum.

“So it is both rare and fortunate to have them juxtaposed in one museum (for the exhibition),” he says.

[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

If you go

9 am-5 pm, through June 26.

Entrance until 4 pm (closed on Mondays).

Exhibition Hall B, the first floor, the Capital Museum. 16 Fuxingmenwai Dajie (Avenue), Xicheng district, Beijing. 010-6339-3339.

www.capitalmuseum.org.cn.

Online reservation is needed.

VIDEOS