Han Dynasty Gold Seals of Vassal Kings
In Hanjiang County, Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China, there is a Ganquan Mountain. One day in the early spring in 1980, when the workers of local brick works were fetching earth on the mountain, they found an ancient tomb. After being informed of the news department of cultural relic immediately sent archaeologists for salvage excavation. The tomb on Ganquan Mountain is a large brick-chambered tomb. It had been stolen in early years, so its chamber was in a mess. However, it was lucky that there were still some exquisite funeral objects left in the tomb, including the Silver-inlaid Copper Cow Lamp and Copper Wild Goose Leg Lamp collected in Nanjing Museum. Inscription of the 28th year of Jianwu is found on the lamp. Jianwu is reign title of Liu Xiu, the first emperor of Eastern Han Dynasty in China. The 28th year of Jianwu is 52 A.D. Therefore, experts conclude that it is a tomb in early time of Eastern Han Dynasty. Judged from the structure and funeral objects preserved, tomb owner had a high social status. But because of lack of physical evidence, experts failed to define the identity of tomb owner for the time being. Thus it was named as No.2 Ganquan Tomb of Han Dynasty. However, it was quite out of expectation that one year later, an accidental discovery helped experts unveil the mystery of tomb owner's origin. One day in February, 1981, villagers of Hanjiang County went to fetch earth nearby No.2 Ganquan Tomb of Han Dynasty. At that time, there was a lot of earth around the tomb, which was dug out when excavating the ancient tomb. When digging earth, a villager found a gold object under the earth. It was in a strange shape. Its upper part was in the shape of a turtle, its lower part was square, and there were characters carved at the bottom. When she knew that it was a piece of ancient cultural relic, she handed it in to department of cultural relic. Experts were excited at the sight of this piece of cultural relic. They recognized that this was a vassal king's seal of Han Dynasty. It is founded with pure gold. On the upper part, there is a turtle-shaped button. The turtle raises its head, propping up with its feet, with half stretching and half withdrawing neck. There is honeycomb fret pattern on the turtle's back. Round bead pattern is decorated o its body edge and four feet. The seal is square. Later on, it is certified that the gold seal is a funeral object in No.2 Ganquan Tomb of Han Dynasty. So experts determine that owner of the Han tomb is Liu Jing. Guangling King of Eastern Han Dynasty.
The discovery of gold seal of Guangling King of Eastern Han Dynasty not only solves the mystery of tomb owner's origin, but also proves that there was a Guangling State in Han Dynasty. Then, where is Guangling State of Han Dynasty of China?
According to historical record, Guangling State of Han Dynasty was a subinfeudated kingdom. It was located in today's area of Jiangdu and Gaoyou, Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province. In 117 B.C., Liu Xiu, a son of Liu Che, Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty, was conferred as the first Guangling King of Western Han Dynasty. In the 1970s, archaeologists found the tomb of Liu Xu on Shenju Mountain of Yangzhou City. After Liu Xu died, emperors of Western Han Dynasty had conferred Guangling King on five royal family members. In 8 A.D., after Wang Mang, a powerful and imperious official in Western Han Dynasty, usurped the throne, he abolished vassal kings of Western Han Dynasty. In 25 A.D., Liu Xiu established Eastern Han Dynasty and restored system of Han Dynasty and vassal kings were conferred on again. According to historical record, after Liu Xiu died, Liu Zhuang, his fourth son, succeeded the throne, becoming Emperor Ming of Han Dynasty. Not long after Emperor Ming succeeded the throne, he conferred Guangling King on his eighth younger brother, Liu Jing. Liu Jing thought it was himself who should be the emperor, thus he was very dissatisfied with Liu Zhuang. He said to a fortune-teller that he looked like the previous emperor very much, who reigned the country at 30, since he was 30 too, could he raise troops to take the throne? The fortune-teller told this to the government. Liu Jing became panicked after knowing that, and he sent himself into the jail. Considering fraternity, Emperor Ming hadn't blamed him too much. However, Liu Jing still wanted to plot a revolt. No long after, he asked a koradji to curse his elder brother. Again, someone reported this to the court. Ministers made a plea for punishing Liu Jing. Seeing his plot fell through and stood exposed, Liu Jing so committed suicide.
After Liu Jing omitted suicide, the court abolished Guangling State and made it into Guangling Prefecture. Since then, emperors of Eastern Han Dynasty had never conferred any Guangling King. After abolishment of Guangling King, the seal was out of use. Experts speculate that the gold seal of Guangling King might be allowed to be buried with Liu Jing upon approval of Emperor Ming of Han Dynasty.
As early ad in Warring States Period in China, stamp had been used. However, before Qin Dynasty, there had no unified standard for stamp. After China is unified in Qin Dynasty, official stamp began to be regulated for usage.
During period of Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty, the court issued a unified and standard ranking system for official stamps. It was expressly defined that vassal kings would use gold stamp with snake button or camel button, named seal, while noblemen would use gold stamp with turtle button, named stamp.
Eastern Han Dynasty followed the official stamp system of Western Han Dynasty. Meanwhile, it had modified part of it. For example, during Western Han Dynasty, stamp used by vassal kings was made of gold with camel button, while in Eastern Han Dynasty, it was changed into fold one with turtle button, to which seal of Guangling King belonged. It exactly complied with regulation on vassal king's seal of government of Eastern Han Dynasty. According to historical record, vassal king's seal of Han Dynasty also had another name of Square One-Cun-long Stamp.
In 109 B.C., Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty started a punitive expedition to Ancient Yunnan. Troops of King of Ancient Yunnan was unable to contend with troops of Han Dynasty, so he submitted himself to Han Dynasty. Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty set Yizhou Prefecture in Yunnan and granted king's stamp to King of Ancient Yunnan to make him continue to rule the area. In the 1950s, archaeologists excavated a stamp of King of Ancient Yunnan of Han Dynasty in the ancient tomb of Shizhai Mountain near Dianchi Lake. The stamp is founded with pure gold. Stamp of King of Ancient Yunnan is important to prove that Ancient Yunnan was subordinated to Han Dynasty.
Emperors of Han Dynasty had issued gold seals or gold stamps to both vassals kings of Liu's family and emperors pf submitting countries. But at present, there are only-several seals, such as seal of Guangling King and king's stamp of King of Ancient Yunnan. Thus they are very precious. Experts are expecting to discover other gold seals of vassal kings of Han Dynasty and gold stamps of emperors of submitting countries to unveil more history mysteries.