By Christine Liu-Perkins,Sarah S. Brannen
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Extra resources for At Home in Her Tomb
If the po stayed, the tomb became its underground home. Although it could no longer make the body move or think, the po still needed to be kept happy and comfortable; otherwise it could return to the land of the living as an angry demon. There were various ways to appease the po. One was to bury in the grave such necessities as food, dishes, clothes, money, and models of servants and houses. Another was to protect the body from decay. Yet another was to regularly offer food and other items at the family shrine.
Her husband and son had even more. What is lacquer? It starts as sap inside a tree, chiefly the species Toxicodendron vernicifluum, also called the Chinese lacquer tree. The sap’s main component is urushiol, which is the substance in poison ivy that produces an intensely itchy rash for many people. Despite this toxicity, ancient Chinese figured out how to make lacquer at least seven thousand years ago. They used it for cooking utensils, dishes, furniture, storage boxes, weapon accessories, musical instruments, vases, and even coffins.
It was the first feiyi ever found. But the archaeologists’ excitement soon turned to concern. How could they recover the feiyi without damaging it? Being so old, it was fragile; they could not just pick it up. So they whittled strips of bamboo, polishing away any rough edges. Using these smooth, flexible tools, they painstakingly peeled the feiyi off the lid of Lady Dai’s coffin. As they progressed, they rolled the feiyi around a large paper tube. At last they could examine the intricate painting in detail.