The Qin and Han dynasties witnessed the first national unification in Chinese history, which ushered in an early period of prosperity in ancient Chinese society and laid an important foundation for the formation of China as a unified multiethnic state. Lingnan was an important part of the Qin and Han empires, whose social, economic, and cultural development made great strides and achieved unprecedented prosperity during this period. In recent years, archaeological work in Guangdong has seen remarkable progress. Breathtaking archaeological remains have been continuously excavated such as the Qin-Han shipbuilding workshop site, the palace and government office site of Nanyue State, the tomb of the second Nanyue King in Xianggang, Guangzhou, and tombs of officials and ordinary members of the public from the Han Dynasty. Precious historical relics have been unveiled, allowing people intimate access to the Lingnan culture from over 2,000 years ago.

In 214 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang conquered the Lingnan Region. Three commanderies were set up: Nanhai, Guilin, and Xiang. Panyu (today’s Guangzhou) was designated the seat of Naihai Commandery. From this point on, influenced by the political landscape characterized by diversity in unity, Lingnan transitioned from a clan society with slash-and-burn agriculture to an era of farming civilization, which grew into the Lingnan civilization that flourished for thousands of years. After more than 400 years of hard work and development by the Qin and Han empires, Lingnan had absorbed the fine culture of the Central Plains and that of the surrounding areas, along with the essence of overseas cultures. This mixture of cultures nurtured the distinctive Lingnan culture featuring inclusivity, a pioneering spirit, bold innovation, and pragmatism.

“One Under Heaven: Exhibition of Guangzhou Archaeological Discoveries of the Qin-Han Dynasties” is hosted by the National Museum of China and the Guangzhou Municipal Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism Bureau, together with other organizations. On display are over 330 precious cultural relics unearthed from the tomb of the Nanyue King, the site of the Nanyue palace, and other Qin and Han archaeological sites in Guangzhou. They come from the collections of the Western Han Nanyue King’s Tomb Museum, the Guangzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, and the Archaeological Site Museum of Nanyue Palace. Among the relics, representative remains such as a jade suit sewn with silk threads, clay impressions of imperial seals, the bronze musical instrument Goudiao, and jade pendants mark the identity, rank, and status of the highest nobles in the Nanyue State. Building components, coins, and inscribed wooden slips unearthed from the archaeological site of the Nanyue Palace reveal the specifications of prestigious buildings and the lavish lives of the nobles at the time. Combined with other material and cultural relics, they showcase the integration of family and country, and the political and cultural climate of the Lingnan region during the Qin and Han dynasties.

This exhibition is divided into four parts, namely, “Pearl of the South,” “Glory over the World,” “Utensils of Beauty,” and “Prologue of the Silk Road.” The exhibition, through the latest archaeological excavations in Guangzhou, strives to display the glorious ancient historical and cultural features of Lingnan from the perspective of civilization creation, cultural inheritance and integration and exchange. We sincerely hope that this exhibition will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the ancient history and culture of Lingnan and a better understanding of China’s long-standing and profound civilization.