Acclaimed art historian He Xilin lectures on Finding Eternity: Chinese Tombs from the Han Dynasty

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Acclaimed art historian He Xilin lectures on Finding Eternity: Chinese Tombs from the Han Dynasty

April 21, 2016

On April 20, He Xilin, professor of art history at China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, gave an animated talk at USC on tombs he has studied from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. -220 A.D.) Following the short-lived reign of China’s first emperor Qin Shihuangdi, the Han emperors established a strong and successful administration over a unified nation. Much of what we now consider to be “Chinese” began in the Han Dynasty. More than 90 percent of today’s population is Han Chinese, speaks the Hanyu language, and uses the script known as Hanzi. Although he teaches in Beijing, Dr. He comes from Xi’an, the city that was the capital of the Han Dynasty. Originally called Chang’an, it is the location of most of the known Han tombs. While the tombs of the Han emperors were looted hundreds of years ago and have not been opened in modern times, Dr. He has explored tombs of affluent people who were not part of the royal family. He showed images of the artwork found in these burial chambers and the elaborately decorated coffins-within-coffins used to protect the bodies of the dead and house them in the afterlife. In fact, one corpse was so well protected that some of its muscle tissue was intact and had a bit of elasticity left in it.

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