The Western Han Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King owes its existence to Zhao Mo, who was the second king of the Nanyue Kingdom. This monarch was the grandson of the founder of the Nanyue Kingdom (204-111 B.C.), a short-lived kingdom made up of parts of southern China and Vietnam.
Zhao Mo’s tomb was discovered by accident in 1983, when the land was being cleared for a construction project. The tomb lies approximately 20 metres (66 feet) under the ground. More than 1,000 relics were recovered from the site, including swords, musical instruments, gold seals, bronze, silver and pottery artifacts. Many of these are on display in the museum, and provide fascinating insight into life in this area over 2,000 years ago.
The Western Han Museum is a three-building complex spread over 14,000 square metres (151,000 square feet). It comprises the Comprehensive Exhibition Building, the Main Exhibition Building and the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King.
Start your visit by watching the short video that details the history of the Nanyue King. Then venture underground to see the tomb at the centre of the complex. As you walk through the narrow corridors, stop by the information boards that explain some of the artifacts and outline the story behind the tomb’s discovery. Explore the mausoleum’s chambers that housed a number of valuables as well as the courtiers who were buried with Zhao Mo.
Amble through the museum’s exhibitions halls, which contain many of the artifacts that had been found in the tomb. One of the highlights is the king’s Jade Burial Suit, an incredible garment made up of more than 2,000 pieces of jade. The Nanyue believed that the gemstone would preserve the body and make the wearer immortal.
Look at the hundreds of ceramic pillows in the museum’s collection. These were buried in tombs for the next life, but historians also think they had a number of functions for the living also, such as being used as a head rest.
The museum caters well to groups, including young children. Take them to the activity centre where they can participate in a number of hands-on activities.
The Western Han Museum of the Nanyue King Mausoleum is a few steps away from the Yuexiu Park metro station. It’s also served by several bus routes. The museum is open every day. Many of the signs and exhibit notes are in English, and audio guides in several languages can be rented for a small additional charge.