Hubei Provincial Museum

Hubei Provincial Museum
Established in 1953, Hubei Provincial Museum is one of the most important research and collection institution in the province. More than 140,000 collections, mainly from a big tomb excavated in 1978, are well preserved here, including 645 pieces of first class cultural relics and 16 pieces of national treasures.

In the summer of 1978, Hubei provincial archaeologists working near Cheng Guan (present-day Suizhou) in Sui county excavated a huge tomb more than 2,400 years old. Dating back from around 433 BC, the tomb belongs to Marquis Yi of the state of Zeng, one of the hosts of lesser states during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). More than 15,000 relics were excavated from the tomb, including the bronze ritual vessels, coffins, musical instruments, gold and jade decorative items, lacquerware, weapons and inscribed bamboo strips.

Musical Instruments

There are 8 kinds and 125 pieces of musical instruments excavated from the tomb, including bells, stone chimes, and drums, Se, Zithers, Sheng, Panpipe and Chi, in which chime bell is most famous.

As the heaviest musical instrument in the world, this set of chime bell, with a total weight of 2,500 kilogram, consists of 65 pieces - the biggest bell is 152.3cm high and 203.6kg in weight and the smallest 20.4cm long and 2.4kg in weight. They were suspended on 3 ordered fames and divided into 8 groups. The Niu Bell on the upper layer, 19 pieces, were used for producing clear tones, thirty-three pieces of Yong Bell on the middle layer for playing melody and twelve pieces of Yong Bell on the lower layer for accompanying. Each bell can produce two different tones when struck. The chime bell was covered roughly five and half octaves and entire 12 semitones, which were most like current C major.

Gold inscriptions of 3,755 words were carved on the body, the frame and hung hooks recording the order of bells, events, notes and records of note names, scale names, octaves and musical pitch connection between other states.

The unearthed play implements are six pieces of T-shaped color-painted wooden poles and two pieces of colorful wooden sticks. According to related materials, there were probably 5 performers involved in the playing of the bells, with two standing in front of the set playing the larger bells with long poles and three behind playing the smaller bells with smaller sticks.

This set of chime bell of Marquis Yi of Zeng reflected the achievements in multi fields such as musicology, study of musical pitch, acoustics and metallurgy. It is one of the major archaeological discoveries in the 20th century.


Altogether 6,239 pieces of bronzeware were excavated from the tomb, including 117 pieces of ritual vessels and 17 pieces of utensils. Among these bronzeware, bronze Zun and Pan are worthy of notice. It consists of two individual vessels - Zun and Pan. The Zun is used as a wine receiver and the Pan is used to hold the Zun. The two vessels are formed into a whole. Four symmetrical dragon-shaped legs are attached to the bottom of the Pan. Four symmetrical hollowed-out handless cubes are adhered to the edge of the pan's mouth. There are hollowed-out additional ornaments stuck to the lower parts on each side of the handles. Four crawling beasts are climbing upwards and throwing up their tongues on the neck of the Zun. The bronze Zun and Pan are exquisite and the ornaments are complicated, reputed as the best model of China's bronzeware in ancient times.


The lacquerware excavated include tablewares and wine vessels for picnic, boxes, cups, buckets, suitcases for food and other things. This batch of lacquerware is both practical and elegant and most of the models are delicately designed according to the functions. Lacquerware are rich in ornaments and colors. A suitcase cover was painted with pictures of astronomical phenomena, which indicates that ancient Chinese had already noticed the movements of stars and mastered the law of the four season's change. On both ends of the cover were also engraved with dragon and tiger.

Although the museum is small, its collection is rich and various, which attract more and more appreciators and visitors at home and abroad