Unearthed in 1955, the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb is a stellar example of a Han Dynasty burial chamber, nearly 2,000 years old.
Discovered while excavating for the present Lei Cheng Uk estate, the tomb has undergone extensive study and renovation since its opening to the public in 1957.
The tomb shows ample evidence of the influence of the Eastern Han Dynasty, including an inscription of Panyu on the tomb bricks. Panyu was a province of the period encompassing what is now Hong Kong. The design and other calligraphy establishes its age and history.
Now enclosed and visible through a large glass panel, the tomb contains four chambers in the shape of a cross. The design has no Christian religious significance, since Christianity was unknown in China at the time (Han Dynasty: 25AD-220AD).
Artifacts from the burial site, such as food storage, pottery and cooking vessels show the Chinese emphasis on food goes back millennia. Two of the recovered objects were bronze utensils and all are authentic. Also discovered were bronze bells, washing basins and mirrors, but oddly no human skeletal remains.
Next to the tomb is a large exhibit hall with photos, videos and other displays showing the history of the tomb and the excavation and conservation efforts.
A 3D digital animation video provides visitors with a detailed, 360 degree look inside the tomb. (There’s also a life-sized replica of the tomb at the Hong Kong Museum of History.) Since you can no longer enter the actual tomb, the video provides a ‘next-best’ view of the domed vault at the center and the four barrel-vaulted chambers.
Visitors will get a thorough explanation, through audio and text, of the efforts undertaken to preserve and understand the tomb. You can read all about how the inscriptions were deciphered and the means by which the artifacts were dated.
Next to the museum, you can stroll through the Han Garden. Completed in 1993, the Chinese garden follows the style of the Han Dynasty and adds to the re-creation of the atmosphere of the period. The garden includes pavilions, fishponds, terraces and rock sculptures typical of the times.
The tomb and grounds were once at the shore, but owing to modern land reclamations they are now over a mile inland. Don’t expect an Egyptian-style or ancient Scottish-style burial site, though. The tomb is surrounded by modern streets and buildings and covered with a modern protective canopy.
Getting to the museum and tomb site is easy. Simply take the West Rail to the Nam Cheong Station. Board bus No. 36A toward Lei Muk Shu and exit at Trade Square. Or, take the excellent MTR subway train to Cheung Sha Wan Station (A3) and walk along Tonkin Street to 41 Tonkin.