Xin Zhui, also known as Lady Dai or Marquise of Dai, was Li Cang’s wife, Chancellier of the Imperial Kingdom of Changsha during the Han Dynasty (206 aC – 220 dC). She died in 163 BC and, although there is not much information about her, the woman lived 2,000 years ago and obtained some popularity over the 1970’s when a team of workers was trying to build up an air raid shelter and made the sensational discovery. The event occurred in Mawangdui, Changsha, in the region of Hunan, China.

Her mummy  is the indisputable queen of the aesthetic preservation, for the incredible completeness of the body after such a long space of time

Below: the reconstruction of how the woman was supposed to appear in life. Picture of the public domain shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Her skin is still soft, her limbs can still bend, the inner organs are intact. The corpse has kept enough blood to allow a reading of the blood type (A positive); eyelashes and hair are still there after 2,200 years from her death.

Below: the feet. Picture by Gary Todd shared via Flickr

The preparation for the burial expected the body to be wrapped around 22 silk and hemp dresses, tightened from 9 silk ribbons and the face covered by a mask. The coffin was inserted within 6 other sarcophagi and the body was immersed in a fluid : its composition, to this day, remains partially unknown.

Below: picture by Gary Todd shared via Flickr

The autopsy revealed that Xin Zhui suffered from back pain, arteriosclerosis, gallstones, diabetes, different liver problems and she was also overweight, caused by the sedentary lifestyle linked to the other pathologies. Apart from the above mentioned conditions, her heart was severely damaged, and this led to her death at the age of 50, after a luxurious and comfortable life that the Chinese Status had granted her.

Below: picture by Gary Todd shared via Flickr

The great conservation state of the mummy gave to the archeologists the most accurate profile of medical investigation it has ever been possible for a human body this old. Although we have a few examples of extremely well preserved corpses, the Similaun one known as Ötzi being an example, Xin Zhui is in any way an indisputable unicum in its genre.

Below: the laquered wooden coffin found in the tomb number 1 in Mawangdui. Picture by 猫猫的日记本 shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

To better understand how old this body is, this woman had died from beyond a century when Julius Caesar was murdered during the conspiracy in the Senate, 44 BC.

Below: the different layers of the sarcophagus where the mummy was placed

Inside the tomb, apart from the body, the archeologist found over a 1,000 manufacts of that period, part of her funerary equipment: wooden lacquered vases, painted silks, statues, golden necklaces, written text on slats of bamboo. The discovery of this incredible tomb and all its content made this sepulchre the most important Chinese discovery of all the 20th century.

Below: Xin Zhui drawn on the funerary equipment in silk found inside the tomb of Mawangdui. Picture by Flazaza shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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