Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Ying Wang

Second Advisor

Derek Counts


human sacrifice, hunpo, Lacquer Coffins, Marquis Yi of Zeng, portals, xunren


There is a significant void in scholarship concerning the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng’s (Zeng Hou Yi), Leigudun M1, Suizhou, Hubei Province, dated to 433 BCE during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BCE) of Bronze Age China, specifically on the lacquer coffins of the female xunren. There is extensive research dedicated to its well-preserved ritual bronze vessels, lacquer wares, and musical instruments, but this tomb is not known for the lacquer designs of portals present on twelve of the twenty-one female companion’s coffins. In this paper, I argue the xunren coffin designs in tomb Leigudun M1 of Zeng Hou Yi are fundamental to uncovering the tomb’s social hierarchy and its function in the afterlife through the presence of portal designs. To begin, I consider archaeological data on the lacquer coffins of the xunren, such as placement and grave goods, and correlate this to lacquer design complexity and portal design on the women’s coffins. I identified parallels between Leigudun M1 and comparable tombs containing burials for the xunren in large quantities that indicate an organized afterlife based on social status. Lastly, I address cosmology and contemporary literature on the afterlife because it illustrates the tradition of hierarchy, movement, and value of souls in the afterlife. By carefully examining the lacquer coffin designs, this study sheds new light on the meaning and value of these coffin soul portals and their relationship to the women and Marquis Yi in the afterlife.