The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China

Over 350 treasures in jade, gold, silver, bronze and ceramics will reveal the hidden world of China’s 2000 year old royal tombs. A part of the London 2012 Festival, The Search for Immortality is the largest and most remarkable exhibition of ancient royal treasures ever to travel outside China.

The Han Dynasty were the founders of unified rule in China as we know it today. But to maintain their empire the emperors had to engage in constant struggles for power. In a world first, The Search for Immortality compares the spectacular tombs of two rival power factions: the Han imperial family in the northern ‘cradle’ of Chinese history, and the Kingdom of Nanyue in the south.

Protected by clay guardians and filled with jade and gold, the tombs were palaces fit for immortals. Each tomb was a symbol of power and majesty, designed so its owner could ‘live’ again in eternity in the same luxury they enjoyed in life.

The amazing and exotic treasures on display shed new light on the remarkable power-plays of ancient China and reveal the secrets of the royal obsession with obtaining immortality.

Highlights of the exhibition:

Two jade burial armour suits belonging to the rival rulers, made from thousands of plaques of jade, sewn together with gold or silk thread.

Jade artefacts thought to ward off demons, such as a jade dagger to serve the emperor in the afterlife, or a jade cup to catch the morning dew that ensured immortality.

Spectacular objects in gold, including imperial seals and exotic belt buckles.

Pottery soldiers and bronze weapons, and pottery dancers, musicians and servants.

Unusual artefacts including a toilet and an early ginger grater.

The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China has been made possible through the generous permission of China’s State Administration for Cultural Heritage, Art Exhibitions China, Xuzhou Museum and the Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue Kings. The exhibition is part of the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration from 21 June to 9 September 2012, bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.


Date: 5/05/2012 to 11/11/2012
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Location: Fitzwilliam Museum