Rare gold horseshoe: a sacred object cast by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty

Rare gold horseshoe: a sacred object cast by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty

  This article is transferred from: Liaoning Daily


  Two gold horseshoes were unearthed in Pulandian District, Dalian City, and are now in the Lushun Museum. The gold nugget is in the shape of a horseshoe, with the surrounding wall retracted from the bottom up, and the middle is hollow. The bottom is irregularly round, engraved with the word “上”, and special symbols are engraved on the side. Horseshoe gold contains 98% gold and weighs about half a catty. The study found that the horseshoe gold made in the Western Han Dynasty was mainly used for sacrifices.


  Our reporter Zhu Zhonghe

  Introduction to this issue

  There are two pieces of horseshoe gold in the Han Dynasty with high purity in the collection of Lushun Museum. According to research and analysis by scholars, these two gold horseshoes, like the gold horseshoes unearthed in the Central Plains of my country, were not currency for transactions, but were used for sacrifices. The discovery of horseshoe gold in the Dalian area proves from the side that the economic and trade prosperity of the Dalian area during the Han Dynasty.


  Rare gold horseshoe from the Western Han Dynasty found in Pulandian

  Yellow and golden, resembling a horseshoe, attracts people’s imagination.

  In the Lushun Museum, two gold horseshoes from the Western Han Dynasty attracted the attention of many audiences. “Is it pure gold?” “What is it used for?” “Why did it appear in Dalian?”…Around the horseshoe gold, the questions raised by the audience were similar and highly concentrated.

  “As national first-class cultural relics, these two gold horseshoes are very popular in Lushun Museum, and they are deeply loved by the audience.” Liu Lili, director of the Information Center of Lushun Museum and an associate research librarian, has studied gold horseshoes for many years. She commented on these two pieces in this way Unearthed in 1983, it is a cultural relic more than 2,000 years ago.

  Careful observation reveals that the bottoms of these two gold horseshoes are irregularly rounded and similar in shape: the center is hollow, the surrounding walls retract from the bottom up, the front is high and the back is low, similar to the shape of a horseshoe. In order to distinguish, the staff coded them as No. 1 and No. 2.

  The bottom of No. 1 gold horseshoe is irregularly circular, with a diameter of 5.6 cm at the narrow part and 5.9 cm at the wide part. The symbol “××××|||” is engraved on the side and weighs 259.45 grams. The diameter of the narrow part of the gold horseshoe No. 2 is 5.6 cm, and the diameter of the wide part is 6.1 cm. The “××××” symbol is engraved on the side and weighs 260.45 grams. Both bottoms are engraved with the round seal of “上”.

  Unique shape, up to 98% gold content. Facing these two gold horseshoes, the first question the audience asked was: “Which dynasty are they from?”

  “They are from the Western Han Dynasty.” Liu Lili said, as the name suggests, horseshoe gold is a gold nugget shaped like a horseshoe, generally irregularly round, with a hollow in the middle, and the walls gradually become lower from front to back. It is one of the forms of gold currency in the Han Dynasty.

  Although the horseshoe gold cast by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty has the function of currency, the number of horseshoe gold is very small. Combined with historical records, experts believe that the main function of horseshoe gold is not for circulation. During the Western Han Dynasty, the gold used in transactions was still gold plates and gold cakes.

  In fact, during the Western Han Dynasty, gold was rarely traded as a form of currency. There were three main currencies in circulation at that time, namely Qin Banliang, Yujiaqian, and Han Wuzhu. These three currencies had a profound impact on the economy of the Western Han Dynasty.

  From a national perspective, there are not many horseshoe gold unearthed in the Han Dynasty, and most of them are in the Central Plains. In addition to the two gold horseshoes unearthed in Dalian, according to incomplete statistics at present, there are about 90 gold horseshoes unearthed (including 48 pieces unearthed from the tomb of Haihunhou). Through the comparison of this figure, it can be seen that the gold horseshoe is precious. As far as the Northeast region is concerned, the gold horseshoe is even rarer.


  Special markings on horseshoe gold

  So, what was the horseshoe gold made in the Western Han Dynasty for?

  The word horseshoe gold was first seen in “Han Shu Wudi Benji”. As for the origin of the gold horseshoe, the book records: “In the past, I saw God in the suburbs, climbed to Longshou in the west, and obtained Bailin, which was given to the ancestral temple. Tianma came out of Wowa water, and gold was seen in Mount Tai. It should be renamed. Today, gold is called gold. Linzhi and 褭蹏 (niǎo tí) are used to help Ruiyan. Because they are given to the princes and kings with classes.” This historical material means that Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty traveled in the spring of the second year of Taishi (95 BC) and climbed to Xilong. The plateau was blessed with a white lin, saw a celestial horse by the Wowa water, saw auspicious omens such as gold in Mount Tai, therefore, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty borrowed the auspiciousness of the white lin and the celestial horse, and recast the gold coins in the past into lin-toed and horseshoe-shaped coins. Gold coins for court rewards.

  Liu Lili said that after many years of research by many experts and scholars, it is generally believed that the real purpose of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty ordering the production of horseshoe gold and Linzhi gold was to worship the gods. It is precisely because the horseshoe gold has this function that the emperor used them to reward the princes and kings who accompanied the sacrifice.

  The round seals such as “upper, middle and lower” depicted on the gold horseshoe are the reason why experts and scholars believe that this type of cultural relic of the Han Dynasty has a sacrificial function. This involves an important system in the ritual system of ancient Chinese society – Mingtang system.

  The Mingtang system originated from the primitive sacrificial etiquette activities, and it was not formally established as a system until the Zhou Dynasty. The Han Dynasty was the first peak in the development history of the Mingtang system. In the autumn of the second year of Yuanfeng in the Han Dynasty (109 BC), Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty built the first Ming hall in the Han Dynasty.

  “Up” means to be placed on the top floor of the Ming Hall – Lingtai to worship the sky; “Middle” means to be placed in the middle layer of the Ming Hall – the ancestral temple to worship ancestors; . That is to say, the gold horseshoes marked with different circles of “upper”, “middle” and “lower” indicate different places for sacrifices.

  In addition to the circular seal, what do the vertical lines and cross symbols on the gold horseshoe represent?

  Liu Lili said that there are currently two views in the academic circles: one view is that it belongs to the counting chip in ancient my country, which is the casting number or storage number of horseshoe gold; the other view is that it is a weight mark symbol.

  The purity of these two pieces of horseshoe gold is as high as 98%. In the Han Dynasty, when the technology of mining and refining gold was not developed, it is rare to have such high-purity gold products. In fact, there are historical reasons behind this.

  It is recorded in “Han Shu Wudi Benji” that when Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty offered sacrifices to the ancestral temple every autumn, he asked the princes to “offer gold to assist the sacrifice”, which is called “offering gold”. If the fineness or quantity of gold offered by the princes is insufficient, they will “cut down the county and exempt the country from the king”. Just taking the fifth year of Yuanding (112 BC) as an example, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty cut off the titles of 106 marquises in the name of insufficient gold offerings. This shows that Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty had very high requirements on the fineness and weight of the gold utensils used for sacrifices, which is also the reason for the high gold content of horseshoe gold.


  Dalian area prospered in economy and trade in the Han Dynasty

  The gold content is high and the demand is high, so where did the gold in the Western Han Dynasty come from?

  “This is due to the accumulation of previous dynasties.” Liu Lili said that during the Warring States period, all the vassal states collected gold and jewelry, and the state of Chu even directly used gold as currency. After Qin destroyed the six kingdoms, what he accumulated was the wealth of the six eastern kingdoms at that time, including a huge amount of gold of course. Qin Zun gold is the currency, and all the gold reserves of the six countries are concentrated in Chang’an. Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty and inherited Qin’s gold.

  In addition, mining and smelting technology progressed during the Qin Dynasty and the Western Han Dynasty. Most of the wealthy businessmen listed in “Biography of Huozhi” started from mining and smelting. The imperial court of the Western Han Dynasty also set up “gold officials” in gold mines in various places to continuously transport the gold mined from various places to the national treasury. The princes and princes also vigorously mined gold in their respective jurisdictions.

  Also, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty opened roads to countries in the Western Regions. His original idea was to conquer the Xiongnu and expand the territory of the Han Dynasty. But after the war, the silk brought to the west by Zhang Qian continued to go to the world. Western treasures and gold poured into the capital Chang’an along the Silk Road. One of the reasons why gold is more abundant.

  What many people don’t know about the Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago is that today’s Dalian area was prosperous in economy and trade during the Han Dynasty.

  According to literature records and archaeological data, the construction of the Dalian area began in the Yan and Qin Dynasties and was completed in the Han Dynasty. In the twelfth year of King Yanzhao (300 BC), Qin Kai became a general and defeated Donghu, which was “more than a thousand miles away”. In order to prevent the Donghu from committing crimes again, “Yan also built the Great Wall, built Yang to Xiangping, and set up Shanggu, Yuyang, Youbeiping, Liaoxi, and Liaodong counties to resist the Hu.” Dalian area was under the jurisdiction of Liaodong County of Yan State at that time.

  During the Han Dynasty, the present-day Dalian area was under the jurisdiction of Dashi County and Wen County of Liaodong County for a long time.

  These two gold horseshoes were unearthed on the southeast seashore 1.5 kilometers away from the Zhangdian Hancheng site in Pulandian District. From a political point of view, it shows that this area may have been the residence of dignitaries and an important place for court officials during the Han Dynasty; From an economic point of view, it shows that this area not only has extensive economic ties with surrounding areas, but also has a certain status in commercial trade activities and has a considerable scale of economic activities. This also provides a strong proof that Zhangdian Seoul was the seat of Dashi County in Liaodong County in the Han Dynasty.

  Zhang Zhicheng, director of the Dalian Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said that during the Han Dynasty, the Dalian area had close ties with the Central Plains in terms of politics, economy, and culture. In the process of personnel flow, the popularization of production methods and lifestyles in the Central Plains, and the introduction of a large number of Central Plains culture and patriarchal etiquette have brought about profound changes in the culture of this area.

  After years of archaeological excavation, archaeologists discovered that there are many Han tomb sites near the Han city in Zhangdian, Dalian. The famous ones are Qiaotun Han Tomb and Chentun Han Tomb. A large number of cultural relics have been unearthed from these Han tombs, including painted pottery pots, owl pottery pots, gilded bronze Beilu Town, etc. Especially in December 2009, the Jiangtun Han tomb group discovered in the north of Hancheng in Zhangdian became famous for a time. A total of 212 Han Dynasty tombs were unearthed, and more than 3,000 cultural relics were unearthed. Covering”, which is the first discovery in Northeast China. These remains provide evidence for the important historical status of Zhangdian Seoul.

  “As far as the ancient cultural relics unearthed in Dalian are concerned, the cultural relics of the Han Dynasty are the largest.” Liu Lili said that in addition to the horseshoe gold, the Dalian area has also unearthed the “Golden Ten Dragon Belt Buckle”, “Linhui Chengyin” seal, “Long Live the Thousand Years” “Wadam, Tongbeilu Town, as well as a large number of exquisite pottery and countless Han tomb pattern bricks. Through these cultural relics, we can see the history of the gradual development and prosperity of the Dalian area during the Han Dynasty. Especially with the opening of the shipping channel, the cultural integration between Dalian and the Central Plains has been further promoted, which has effectively promoted the economic and social development of Dalian.

  (The picture in this edition is provided by Lushun Museum)


  Dalian farmers dug up a “national treasure” in the mud

  Zhu Zhonghe

  The two gold horseshoes collected by the Lushun Museum are national first-class cultural relics. If you want to trace the history of their discovery, you need to turn the calendar back 40 years ago.

  On the afternoon of January 27, 1983, Wang, a farmer from Huaershan Commune in Xinjin County, Dalian (now Pulandian District, Dalian City), was digging alkali mud in Dianzi, Nanhai, about 1.5 kilometers southeast of the Zhangdian Seoul site. When digging to a depth of about 2 meters from the surface, I suddenly touched two hard things. The curious Wang picked it up and saw the two hard bumps were yellow and shiny, “Is this gold?” The younger brother who worked with Wang took a look and said dubiously: “It doesn’t look like it, it may be brass.” At this time, it was getting late, and the brothers decided to call it a day and go home early.

  Back home with the gold in their pockets, the brothers found the well-informed old man in the village. The old man weighed the two hard bumps in his hands, looked at them repeatedly, and felt very strange: “I have never seen it grow so big!” Just when everyone was guessing, a villager came together Come forward and say that these two things are very similar to the gold horseshoe in the comic book. Having said that, if you look carefully, let alone, it really looks like a horseshoe.

  Since they look like horseshoe gold, are they really gold? The villagers also found a physics teacher in the village to find out. After testing, these two hard bumps are really gold, and the purity is very high. Hearing this result, the whole village suddenly boiled up.

  Facing this big treasure that fell from the sky, the honest and loyal brothers of the Wang family began to feel uneasy. Early in the morning of the third day, Wang decided to go to the Xinjin County Sub-branch of the Liaoning Provincial Branch of the People’s Bank of China with his family to sell gold. Seeing these two rare treasures, the staff of the bank were also shocked. After testing, the two pieces of horseshoe gold weighed 259.45 grams, and the other weighed 260.45 grams. The gold content was as high as 98%. acquisition.

  After earnestly inquiring about the whole process of the discovery of the horseshoe gold, the bank realized that the two pieces of horseshoe gold were not ordinary gold, but probably cultural relics, so they immediately reported to the superior department. At the same time, this sensational news was also published in Dalian newspapers.

  The news caught the attention of the staff of the archaeological department of Lushun Museum. They preliminarily determined that the two pieces of gold were relatively rare horseshoe gold in the Han Dynasty. Lushun Museum attached great importance to this matter, and then the museum leader reported it to the superior unit——Dalian Cultural Relics Management Department. The Dalian cultural relics management department did not dare to delay at all, and sent staff to investigate.

  When the experts arrived in Xinjin County, the two pieces of horseshoe gold had been transferred to the Liaoning Branch of the People’s Bank of China. According to the provisions of the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics”, the unearthed cultural relics shall be kept by units designated by the local cultural administrative department, except those that are handed over to scientific research departments for research as needed. After several communications, the two precious cultural relics were finally safely transported from Shenyang to the Lushun Museum under the protection of the Dalian Public Security Police.

  In 1984, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Palace Museum jointly held the “National Exhibition of Precious Cultural Relics Unearthed from 1976 to 1984”. These two gold horseshoes became the only gold horseshoes in the exhibition. In 1993, it was appraised as a “National First-Class Cultural Relic” by experts from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

  Cartography Sui Wenfeng