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Wang Zhaojun Museum’s Complex, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China

South of Hohhot you can find the museum’s complex Wang Zhaojun. It consists of several museums, galleries, monuments, and other installations around the supposed burial mound of Wang Zhaojun, a Han royal concubine who was married to the Mongolian Khan Chanyu Huhanye. The mound, also called the Green Mound, allegedly stays green even though all the other grass around it become yellow. Whether it really contains the coffin of Wang Zhaojun is not known, since it has never been excavated. There are nine similar tombs in Mongolia after all.

Burial Mound of Wang Zhaojun

Wang Zhaojun left China and the court of emperor Yan in 33 BC only 17 years old to marry the king of the Huns. This story left of course room for adaptations and thus countless poems, novels, and dramas were written and performed, featuring poor Zhaojun who left the civilized world and led a life of a living death for the peace of her country. To reconstruct her life is, however, difficult since a lot of different life stories of her exist and her life was fictionalised as early as the Tang period.

Whether she really suffered silently for her country is of course unknown, too. On the other side of the border she is often depicted with her husband riding out happily. Maybe she was homesick but she was also a queen of large country; a status she would have never reached back in China where she only was a concubine in waiting.

Wang Zaojun and Chanyu Huhanye

If you are interested in the exterior of the huge area (133,000 m²), you should go to my other blog; here I will rather show you some items from the museums, since Mongolian or Xiongnu archaeology, as it is called, are quite rare to see on Western language blogs.

The smaller museum was concerned with showing some typical grave goods that would have been common during the time Zhaojun’s mound was erected. Many of them are copies from artifacts of the Inner Mongolian Museum in Hohhot. Since we weren’t able to visit this museum due to time constricts, these replicas will have to do 🙂

Cross section through a Han period burial mound


The larger Xiongnu Heritage Museum had a more diverse exhibition, ranging from graves to petroglyphs of the steppe-nomads to weapons of the Huns.

Museum for Xiongnu Culture (Hun Heritage Museum)

The entrance hall is dominated by life size figurines of Wang Zhaojun, her husband Chanyu Huhanye, as well as variant figures in Hun costume:

Entrance Hall of the Xiongnu Heritage Museum

In 1979/80 a Western Han Dynasty cemetery was found in Maoqing Gully near the town of Ulanqab. Excavated were so far 81 graves all with rich grave goods; bronze and iron weapons, horse harnesses and bones from cattle, horse, and sheep.

On the photo you can see the well-preserved belt buckle as well as the bronze dagger.

Grave from Maoqing Gully (Western Han Dynasty)

The Mandela rock art group consist of around 4600 petroglyphs, distributed in an area of 18 km².

Here you can see a hunting scene; the hunter also brought his horse. The associated sign attributed this particular style to the Spring and Autumn period (720 – 481 BC) or Warring States period (475 – 221 BC).

How important the horse was to the Xiongnu population is visible in every detail. There was no exception in death; many graves were equipped with complete horse harnesses. Here is a nice detail from a harness:

Part of a horse harness (Han Dynasty)

This tiger-and-camel plaque was also part of a horse harness:

Copy of a Plaque from a Horse Harness (Han Dynasty)