Lime mortars have played an important role in constructing ancient Chinese masonry structures, including city walls, buildings, and tombs. A tomb built with lime mortars and stones belonging a Ming high-ranking official, Xu Jie, was discovered in Huzhou City of China. Eight different samples from Xu Jie's tomb, representing four types of lime-mortar-based materials: joint mortar between stone bricks, bedding mortar, grouting mortar, and plaster mortars were collected for analysis and comparison. The characterization of the construction materials has therefore become of primary importance. The function of each mortar was reported and studies into the micro-textural features and mineralogical compositions of those mortars were performed via a multi-analytical approach. The joint mortars were all found to be aerial lime mortars with predominately lime. The bedding mortar was found to consist of lime, soil and sand, typical of a tabia mortar. The grouting mortar was found to consist of lime and ground contact metamorphosed limestone. Analysis of plaster sample taken from the roof of the main tomb identified the presence of calcium stearate/palmitate, indicating the usage of plant-based tung oil as an additive. The analytical results will promote our understanding of Ming architectural technology and craftsmanship, and provide critical information for the conservation of Xu Jie's tomb.
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