Survival Guide Time for Time Travelers

Going back in time to Han China requires a lot of preparation on our part. The Chinese people at this time believed that spirits and ancestors were very active in everyday life so to blend in effectively, knowing about their vision of the afterlife is very important. An important thing to keep in mind is that the rich and the poor had different visions of life after death. The rich had grand visions of living in a great palace with the gods and having luxury that would make the finest palaces on earth look like hovels. The commoner’s view was much more drab. They saw the souls of the dead as pitiable creatures that relied on their living descendants for everything. The spirits of the dead could influence the world of the living but they had a bureaucracy they had to go through. 

        For the soul in Han China, ones’ tomb was everything. It was believed that the tomb was where the soul would reside for eternity. It logically follows that the condition of one’s tomb would impact the happiness of the soul. If one’s descendants ignored their ancestor and let the tomb be flooded or disturbed in way or another, the spirit could take it up with the underworld bureaucracy. If the court found the spirit’s complaint reasonable, the court could give punishment to the living descendant. This misfortune would likely cause the descendants to pay more attention to their ancestors and take care of the tomb. This spiritual belief shows that the ancestors are relatively powerless and to exert their will and must rely on bureaucracy and courts. By knowing  the mindset of the people, one can enter into the time period and get the most out of the experience along with staying undiscovered.


D’Haeseleer, Tineke. “Afterlife, Ancestors, and Ghosts (before Buddhism),” February 2, 2020.

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