Taiwan Fun Magazine, October 2004


Glimpsing the mysterious Emperor's Jade Shroud

Written and translated by Jennifer Tong



     In the 4th century BC, China was a feudal continent split into seven small states. Battles erupted; the people suffered torture and poverty. Historians call this the "Warring States Period."

The Chin defeated the other six, and put an end to the chaos. The conqueror called himself the Chin Emperor (Chin Shr Huang Di). An egoistic emperor, he desired to secure his throne for eternity. In building his Great Wall, many of the 700,000 civilian laborers died from overwork and starvation.

A Taoist master named Su Fu convinced the Chin emperor that he could find a magical potion giving him immortality. He asked for 3,000 boys and 3,000 girls, money, and other necessities. Su Fu then fled to Japan; in a fit of rage, the emperor arrested 460 Taoist scholars and had them buried alive under the Great Wall.

It took 18 years to build a well-fortified tomb for the emperor. This colossal tomb-palace was supposed to consist of nine layers. In China, the number nine shares the same sound as forever. However, the emperor died early on in the construction process. His great tomb was completed only up to its third layer--geomancers explained that it coincided with the fact that his kingdom lasted only into its third decade.

Excavations of his tomb-palace in Xian revealed a lifesized terracotta army. These soldiers reflect the advanced sculpturing techniques, and the selfish ambitions of this tyrant.

Numerous treasures, together with thousands of people from his family and entourage, were buried alive in the tomb. According to archives, he slept in a beautiful brass coffin, his body covered in a jade shroud and strung with gold thread, his feet in silver shoes, his hands holding a jade pig, wrapped with gold--all designed for a reincarnated king.
On a tour of the Kuang Lung Museum in Hualien, I got my first look at this legendary gem garment. We thought that we were browsing a typical marble factory; by chance we entered a room with this hidden treasure trove. A dazzling collection; one set of the gem shroud for the emperor and empress, more than 7,000 old jade artifacts, 1,600 kinds of mining stones, 2,000 fossils, and 1,300 pieces of natural stones in artistic forms.

If you're not satisfied with the current exhibition at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, do come to this secret place. It's worth the trip, just to spend a day browsing these artifacts.

1-2, JiaWan, KangLo Village, HsinCheng Town, Hualien County
Tel: (03) 8268-688 Fax: (03) 8265-260
Hours: 8 am-5:30 pm
Web: http://www.klmm.com.tw
Admission Fee: Adults NT$380; students and children NT$340