In 1971, workers were excavating an air raid shelter in Changsha, China, when they stumbled across an archaeological find that would fascinate the world. They uncovered the eerily intact mummy of a woman who was so perfectly preserved that her corpse had barely decomposed. While scientists estimated she was 2,000 years old, she still looked hardly a day over 50, and as recently deceased as a mummy could possibly look. The mummy was so well-preserved that pathologists were able to ascertain not only the cause of death, but her last meal as well. She has come to be known as "The Diva Mummy".
Xin Zhui, also called Lady Dai during her lifetime, was the wife of a high-ranking Han Dynasty official named Li Chang. Lady Dai was born around 213 BC and is believed to have died in 163 BC at the age of 50. She would lie undisturbed in her tomb for over 2,000 years, before her eventual discovery in 1971.
China's Lady Dai mummy mystery had scientists stumped. How was her body so-well preserved? Did the Han Dynasty's mummification techniques differ so greatly from that of the Egyptians or the Japanese Buddhist monks' mummification procedures? Keep reading and learn how Lady Dai became one of the most famous Chinese mummies in history.
Xin Zhui's Elaborate Tomb Was Ultimately Responsible For Her Perfect Preservation
Xin Zhui's tomb was extraordinary. Even if one discounts all the precious artifacts and the historical significance of the find, the construction of the tomb itself is a marvel of architectural genius. Shaped like a funnel, the entire floor area was covered with a paste-like soil, and the structure was then packed with moisture-absorbing charcoal. If that wasn't enough to ensure a dry resting place, the tomb was sealed with clay to keep oxygen and bacteria out of the chamber.
While she was lying peacefully inside a small pine coffin, that coffin rested inside a slightly more substantial pine box which in its turn rested inside one even larger, not unlike Russian nesting dolls. This coffin was the funerary equivalent of Fort Knox.
The Mummy Diva Had Everything She Could Need For The Afterlife
Xin Zhui's family and friends made sure she had everything in her coffin which she enjoyed during her natural life. This didn't just extend to trinkets, make-up, and toiletries, however; there were 162 wooden figurines representing the army of servants waiting to do her bidding in the next life. There was even an elaborate meal prepared and set out for her to ensure she didn't arrive in the next life on an empty stomach.
Xin Zhui's Tomb Wasn't The Only One Found During The Excavation
When Xin Zhui's tomb was discovered, it created quite a sensation due to how well preserved her corpse was. However, two other members of her elite family were found during the excavation as well. Li Cang, Marquis of Dai and Chancellor of the Kingdom of Changsha, was located in in the first tomb. His wife, Xin Zhui, was in the second tomb, and one of their sons was in a third grave. Experts are unsure of the identity of the son but know he was around 30 at the time of his death. The unnamed son's tomb contained 20 silk manuscripts, several silk paintings, and seven medical manuscripts. The medical documents are extremely important as they are the oldest recorded medical documents in the history of China.
People Of The Han Dynasty Were Obsessed With The Afterlife
During the Han dynasty, the Chinese had beliefs regarding the afterlife that were very similar to the ancient Egyptians. A great deal of time and effort went into making arrangements for the afterlife. They would refer to their tombs as a subterranean palace or "di gong," and royalty would decorate their tombs to resemble their palaces, with furniture, jewelry, utensils, and anything else they believed their soul would need after death. In some shocking instances, emperors were buried alongside their mistresses, maids, and cooks, who would all be sacrificed to serve their master. As with other aristocrats, Xin Zhui had a tomb fit for a queen.