Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum

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The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum Chinese: 李鄭屋古墓) is composed of an ancient brick tomb and of an exhibition hall adjacent to it. It is located at 41 Tonkin Street, in Sham Shui Po District, in the northwestern part of the Kowloon Peninsula of Hong Kong.


The tomb

According to the structure, calligraphy and content of the inscriptions on tomb bricks and to the tomb finds, the tomb is commonly believed to have been built during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25 - 220) although the Southern Dynasties period was also suggested. It was probably built for a Chinese officer attached to the local garrison.

The tomb is constructed of bricks (average size 40x20x5cm) and consists of four chambers set in the form of a cross. The dome vault at the center was constructed by laying bricks in a spiral, while the other chambers are barrel vaulted. Some bricks are stamped or carved with inscriptions or patterns on the exposed sides. It is believed that the rear chamber is the coffin chamber, that side chambers were used for storage, while ritual ceremonies were performed in the front chamber under the domed roof.

The tomb's cross-shaped structure and the burial objects found inside show great similarities as compared to other Han tombs found in South China, which prove that early Chinese civilisation had spread to Hong Kong 2,000 years ago. The inscription Panyu on tomb bricks further confirms the dating, since, according to historical records, Panyu was the name of the county to which the present territory of Hong Kong belonged during the Han Dynasty. Also, the style of the calligraphy used in the inscriptions was an angular version of lishu (clerical script) which was generally used in inscriptions on bronze wares and stones during the Han Dynasty. There were no bodies found in the tomb.

Discovery and preservation

The tomb was accidentally discovered in August 1955, when the Hong Kong Government was leveling a hill slope for the construction of resettlement buildings at Lei Cheng Uk Village (present-day Lei Cheng Uk Estate). The tomb was then excavated by members of Hong Kong University and workers of the Public Works Department, Hong Kong under the supervision of Professor F.S. Drake, former head of the Chinese Department at the University of Hong Kong. After excavation, the tomb and an exhibition hall were formally opened to the public in 1957. In November 1988,[1] the Han Tomb was declared as a gazetted monument[2] by the Hong Kong Government, and it is now protected and preserved permanently under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

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