Music in Age of Confucius Exhibit

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In 1977 troops from the Chinese People's Liberation Army were sent to the remote Yangtze River Valley in central China to level a hill near the town of Leigudun for a new factory. After removing the initial layers of dirt, they uncovered stones that clearly had been deliberately laid down. Archaeologists were called in, and they methodically set about uncovering what turned out to be an extraordinary Bronze Age tomb dating to around 433 BC. It belonged to a previously unknown local lord named Marquis Yi of Zeng. Sackler Gallery Curator Jenny So likens this to the earlier 12th century discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt. The uncovering of the Marquis Yi tomb at the dawn of a period of renewed interest in scholarly pursuits in China, as well as the reopening of China to the West, was fortuitous timing. One happy result is the Sackler exhibition, "Music in the Age of Confucius," which is curated by So and includes bells, zithers, drums, flutes and panpipes from the tomb of the Marquis Yi. In the exhibition, visitors can see and hear the sounds of 2,500 year old Bronze Age instruments that So says "constitute the oldest musical assemblage from any culture."


  • So, Jenny F
  • Zeng, Yi Hou -433 B.C
  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian Institution)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


The Smithsonian "Torch" staff newsletter, July 2000, No. 00-07-2000, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession: 05-298

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Musical instruments
  • Antiquities
  • Art museums
  • Exhibitions
  • Bronze age
  • China--Antiquities
  • Bronze Age


  • China
  • China (Republic : 1949- )
  • Washington (D.C.)

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