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The Hepu Han tombs and the maritime Silk Road of the Han Dynasty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2015

Xiong Zhaoming*
Sichuan University, No. 24 South Section 1, Yihuan Road, Chengdu 610065, China; and Guangxi Institute of Cultural Relics Protection and Archaeology, 68 Keyuan Rd, Nanning 530003, China (Email:


The extensive cemetery at Hepu in southern China represents one of the best-preserved tomb complexes of the Han period. It contains many elaborate tombs with exotic luxury materials that testify to the status of Hepu as the home port of the maritime Silk Road. This trading network carried Chinese products (notably silks) by sea to kingdoms and communities of South and Southeast Asia, and was the southern counterpart to the more famous overland Silk Road through Central Asia. The materials found in the Hepu tombs demonstrate the range and geography of contacts, including semi-precious beads from India and ceramics from the Parthian empire. This far-flung trade network had major impacts both on southern China and on the other regions that it connected.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2014

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