In addition to showing the royal treasures of the Han dynasty, The Search for Immortality gives an insight on the power play in one particular area of the Han Empire – the Kingdom of Nanyue in Southern China.
This kingdom was of great importance as it was the gateway to the trade-routes of the South China Sea. The kingdom was also established at much the same time as when the Han where ascending to power, and there is a well-documented power struggle between the Han Emperor and the first King of Nanyue.
This ended when the King of Nanyue eventually bowed to the might of the Emperor and agreed to be a vassal state – or so historical documentation would have you believe.
By looking at the tombs of the second King of Nanyue, compared to the tombs of the Han Royal family, it becomes evident that this power struggle did not just fade away.
The treasures in the Nanyue tomb are styled as those of an Emperor, even with seals and objects naming the deceased as Emperor.
Yet it is also evident that this was not an open statement of power. The objects from Nanyue, although remarkable treasures of astounding wealth, were not created with the same level of resource as those treasures from the Han tombs
A generation after they had sworn fealty the second King of Nanyue continued to style himself as Emperor in his lands, quietly out of sight of the Han Dynasty.
Please see the links to the left for the full information on how the struggle for power in Nanyue played out.