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Three Hoof-Shaped Ingots


Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9)

Not on view

In 2011 local governments intercepted the looting of an ancient tomb west of Nanchang. Excavations revealed that it belonged to Liu He (92–59 B.C.), who in 74 B.C. was enthroned as emperor but was deposed after only twenty-seven days. He became known as the marquis of Haihun. Among the hundreds of gold ingots recovered from his tomb were nearly fifty in the shape of hooves. They are of particular significance, for in 95 B.C. Emperor Wu (r. 141–87 B.C.) ordered that the name of gold coinage be changed to linzhi (qilin-hoof) and mati (horse-hoof) to match auspicious omens he had seen in a vision: a white qilin unicorn and a “heavenly” horse.

Three Hoof-Shaped Ingots, Gold, China

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