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Ordinary Mysteries: Interpreting the Archaeological Record of Han Sichuan

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In this article I present three ideas designed to challenge us to look harder at the riches that the Han tomb tiles and figurines from Sichuan represent. After noting briefly the ways in which the tomb represents a "well-protected home," I will argue first that the scenes that now appear most straightforward and easily interpreted may once have communicated far more complex ideas; second, that multiple metaphorical meanings attached to certain images can be established by reference to other sites as far away from Sichuan as Shandong, on the northeastern seacoast; and third, that what we now—quite anachronistically—call the "art of the Sichuan tombs" nonetheless exhibits several noteworthy features that are entirely distinctive to the area.


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