YOU CAN'T TAKE it with you.
That phrase has been enshrined in our psyches since the
beginning of time. We've accepted in, and we've lived by it.
Enjoy your earthly treasures in the here and now, goes the
script, for they won't do you any good in the hereafter.
Even the emperors of China couldn't take it with them. But they
Approximately 250 priceless artifacts scooped up from the tombs
of the Sons of Heaven, who ruled China from hundreds of years
before Christ to the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, are dazzling
visitors to the Memphis Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn.
"The Imperial Tombs of China" has brought together a wealth of
rarefied objects, including:
A death mask of 14-karat gold that was to preserve the skull of
the Princess of Chen, a noblewoman of the Laio Dynasty who died in
A burial shroud from the Han Dynasty, fashioned from more than
2,000 squares of jade.
Carvings of the "horses that sweated blood," revered for their
extraordinary strength and courage.
A large, round, three-legged, bronze vessel that sometimes held
nourishing broth - and, at other times, the hacked flesh of certain
An exquisite dragon and phoenix headdress, encrusted with ropes
of pearls and clusters of rubies and sapphires. Made posthumously
for an emperor's concubine by her grandson, she was dug up, crowned
A vial with 13 tiny, white granules reputed to be fragments of
the cremated remains of Buddha.
The throne room from the Shenyang Palace, replicated down to
the last detail. Crowded with a seven-panel screen engraved with
103 dragons, cloisonne braziers, lacquered stands decorated with
pot-bellied creatures, and dominated by an ornate 6-foot tall,
5-foot-wide throne, this was where China's last emperor vacationed
when he wanted to get away from it all.
Of particular note are four life-size statues of ancient
warriors, standing like sentinels, each apparently modeled after a
They were among the terra-cotta soldiers, chariots and horses
buried with China's first emperor and unearthed in 1974 by two
farmers who had set out to dig a well. Called one of the greatest
archaeological finds of all time, the spectacular grave site has
yielded 8,000 warriors from its ancient depths.
The tombs collection spans 2,500 years and seven periods of
Chinese history and was selected from 18 different museums and
cultural centers in nine provinces. Some of the items have never
been seen outside of China.
The driving force behind this cultural coup is WONDERS, a
Memphis-based series that showcases objects gathered from around
the world. Past exhibits have included:
"Ramses the Great" (1987), featuring as its centerpiece a
gigantic 47-ton, 25-foot-tall statue of the Egyptian ruler.
"Catherine the Great: Treasures of Imperial Russia" (1991), a
highlight of which was the restored carriage ordered by Peter the
Great for his second wife's coronation. …