Book: “At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui”

“At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui”

By Christine Liu-Perkins

(80 pages, children’s non-fiction, history/archaeology, 2013)


As with so many great archaeological finds, the excavation of the tombs of Lady Dai, her husband and son began with an accident: a worker digging in a field in 1971 struck white clay. Experts called in from the Hunan Provincial Museum confirmed that a truly ancient tomb was nearby, dating to the Han period of Chinese history (206 BCE-220 CE). Official excavation began in January of 1972 leading to spectacular finds in the three tombs.

The first tomb opened belonged to the woman now referred to as Lady Dai, whose husband was Chancellor of Dai in the Changsha kingdom, a southern province of the Chinese empire of that time. Her body was remarkably well-preserved, allowing a modern autopsy. This discovery was certainly on a par with King Tut’s tomb, revealing cultural artifacts and burial customs that historians had only been able to guess at previously. Drawings and photographs explain the structure of the tomb and the purpose of various grave goods buried with the Lady.

The other two tombs pre-dated Lady Dai’s, and had sustained damage when hers was built. Even so, remarkable items were found in those tombs as well. In particular, her son’s tomb contained a library of books written on silk that had been lost in the intervening centuries. Scholars knew of the books but had nothing but fragments of them until this discovery.

Author Christine Liu-Perkins offers clear explanations about Chinese history, the work of the students and archaeologists who opened the tombs, and the importance of this find. Photographs, illustrations and line drawings enhance the story and there are a glossary of terms and a bibliography as well.

You can find “At Home in Her Tomb” in the Children’s Non-Fiction Room. Some of the images might be a little creepy for younger readers, but if your child (or you!) is fascinated by ancient Egypt, for example, you’ll find this book as fascinating as I did.

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Julia Miller

Author: Insider Staff

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