In his new book, Modeling Peace: Royal Tombs and Political Ideology in Early China, Jie Shi, assistant professor of history of art, has produced the first interpretation of that royal mausoleum. Posthumously called “King of Peace,” Sheng was sent by his father, Emperor Jing, to rule the Zhongshan kingdom near the northern frontier of the Western Han Empire. Sheng carried out the Huang-Lao policy of “ruling through taking no deliberate action” in governing the state, and followed the Confucian understanding of the good ruler as one who pacifies himself, his family, and his country.
Through a detailed analysis of the architectural, archaeological, and textual record, Shi argues that the tombs—their architecture and funerary content—serve as an expression of the Western Han political ideology, one based on Huang-Lao and Confucian thought. In laying out his argument, he considers both the site’s physical elements—the “Chinese box” complexity of the tomb’s layout, the disposition of the tombs within the mausoleum, the inscribed seals, the inclusion of both ethnic Han and non-ethnic Han elements in the design—and historical and philosophical records related to Liu Sheng. His analysis demonstrates that the site was planned and designed as a unity of religious, gender, and intercultural concerns.
Published by Columbia University Press, Modeling Peace is the first scholarly study of an undisturbed and fully excavated early Chinese royal burial site.