The Han Dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC to AD 220, forged the first enduring empire to cover much of the territory of modern China. During this 400-year period—contemporary to the Late Republic and Early Empire of ancient Rome—many of the defining features of Chinese culture, government and society came together for the first time. It is looked back on by Chinese today as a ‘golden age’ whose heritage is still very much alive.
The Search for Immortality focuses on the spectacular treasures discovered in the Han royal tombs at the imperial family’s home town of Xuzhou (Jiangsu province). These are compared with the treasures of the tomb of the King of Nanyue (Guangzhou), a semi-autonomous kingdom on the southern periphery of the Han empire.
In this section you can learn more about the Han Dynasty and the Han royal tombs. For information on the Kingdom of Nanyue please see the contested power pages.