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Chariot fitting—draught pole ornament, yuan shou shi
Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–9 CE)
Gilt bronze
H. 11cm, L. 17 cm, Thickness 11.5 cm
Excavated 1970, chariot and horse burial in Tomb 4, Jiulongshan, Qufu County
Collection of Shandong Provincial Museum
(cat. #39)


One of the most important parts of the chariot was the draught pole that connected the yoke bar at the base of the horse’s neck to the axle of the chariot box. This fantastic, feline-like horned creature probably embellished the end of the draught pole near the horse’s neck (see appendix 1). The partially hollow cylinder, open at one end, is pierced by two rectangular holes that probably helped secure this gilt bronze ornament to the draught pole; the other end is in the shape of a powerfully modeled, open-mouthed animal baring teeth and fangs. The feline monster’s face is dominated by a large triangular flat nose, defined by two deeply set spiral nostrils and flanked by a ridged moustache, and two bulging eyes with thick stand-up eyebrows. Behind each eye, a horn forms an open loop, arching back, curving down to the side of the cylinder, and ending in a curl. This fierce bronze monster served to effectively repulse evil. A familiar creature in the Han dynasty, it is visible on many chariot ornaments in the exhibition (see cat. nos. 28, 40–42).

Four royal rock-cut tombs of a smaller scale than Shuangrushan were found at Jiulongshan, or Nine Dragon Mount, in Qufu county, Shandong.[1] The four tombs contained a total of twelve chariots, each with a team of four horses, totaling 48 horses. Since the horses were buried alive as a sacrificial offering, the chariots sustained such severe damage that it was impossible to reconstruct them from the fittings and parts recovered.[2]

all text & images © China Institute Gallery


1. The short excavation report has been published by Shandong sheng bowuguan, “Qufu Jiulongshan Hanmu fajue jianbao,” pp. 39–44, inside back cover.

2. Shandong sheng bowuguan, “Qufu Jiulongshan,” p. 41.

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