I've read in the book, The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han by Mark Edward Lewis, that ancient Chinese Emperors, upon their death, would have massive tomb hills/temples erected for their bodies to reside in.

The elite classes such as the aristocrats, and possibly academic elite, were routinely culled upon death of an Emperor and forced to live at the site of the deceased Emperor's tomb. Their duties for the rest of their lives were to tend to the Imperial tomb. What fascinates me is that there were whole communities apparently based around these Imperial tomb cities.

So, my question is what literature exists explaining life in said cities? Also, is there a formal term or definition for these Imperial tombs in Mandarin Chinese?

1 Answer 1


I believe the term you're looking for is shouyi (守邑), "guardian town".

In truth, I'm not sure what information/reading you're asking for. A particularly obscure topic, if I may say so.

If you're looking to understand the logic of Chinese rituals on ancestor worship, a good book is "Chinese Thought" (2019) by Roel Sterckx (Joseph Needham Professor at Cambridge).

Alternatively, his earlier work could also be useful - "Food, Sacrifice, and Sagehood in Early China" (2011).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.