Stone Bas-relief, Queen Mother of the West / Chariot / Hunting


Stone Bas-relief, Queen Mother of the West / Chariot / Hunting

Archaeology / Han Dynasty

Place excavated:From Jinyangshan, Shandong province, China

Eastern Han dynasty, 1st-2nd century


縦60.6 横57.6


The tombs of the Chinese upper classes were luxuriously built almost 2000 years ago during the Han dynasty. They would be built underground with multiple rooms connected by a corridor, and a shrine would have been built aboveground and dedicated to the deceased by the children and relatives of the individual. Carvings like this stone bas-relief would have been used to decorate the walls of the tombs and shrines.

The bottommost of the three scenes depicts a group on the hunt, representing the above-ground world. The second scene shows figures going on a journey in a horse-drawn chariot, perhaps representing the connection between the world and the heavens. Finally, the topmost scene depicts the heavens. Sitting in the centre and facing outwards, we see the goddess known as the Queen Mother of the West. She was said to live on the distant legendary mountain Kunlun, and to be responsible for the life and death of humanity. Near her, we can see two rabbits using pestles to create elixir, a medicine for immortality.

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