Ancient kingdom reveals its secrets
en.hangzhou.com.cn   2022-12-28 13:19   Source: China Daily

Editor's note: A national comprehensive research program, launched in 2002, to trace the origins of Chinese civilization, has led to the excavations and studies of key sites that are about 3,500 to 5,500 years old. It has revealed a host of secrets about ancient China, including how early civilizations were formed and how they merged to create unity in diversity. China Daily speaks to experts working at these sites to decode their recent discoveries.

From 5,300 to 4,300 years ago, people from the late Neolithic period moved to a marshland in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and settled there to grow rice. They built a complicated dam system and set up a megacity, featuring a unified belief system that lasted for almost 1,000 years.

The glorious civilization at the Liangzhu site in Hangzhou is considered a key clue to the origins of China's 5,000-year civilization, especially after UNESCO inscribed the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City on its World Heritage List in 2019.

"Liangzhu site is well-preserved," says Liu Bin, a veteran archaeologist who discovered Liangzhu city in 2006. "The archaeological achievements in the past decades are enough to demonstrate a civilization that was as glorious as that in ancient Egypt."

Liu's latest book on excavations at the Liangzhu site was published in July.

In 1986, Liu took part in an excavation that unearthed hundreds of exquisite jade articles at high-level cemeteries near Liangzhu city. It unveiled a mature jadeware production industry in Liangzhu culture and also a stratified society.

Two decades later, the veteran discovered ruins of the city walls, and a well-organized capital city of a regional state in the late Neolithic period was unveiled to the public. Ruins of the complicated water conservancy system were found later from 2009 to 2013. It's the first hydraulic project ever found in China from Neolithic times.

"Liangzhu culture has production chains of jade, pottery and stone, a smart dam system, and a city that was well-built on marshland. It gives the world a good example of civilization along the Yangtze River," Liu says.

Wang Ningyuan, a researcher with the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, says that the standards used to define a civilization in China are inspired by the Liangzhu site. In the West, scripts are seen as a key standard of a civilization. However, China regards the appearance of a kingdom as the standard.

Evidence of scripts in Liangzhu culture has not yet been found. But, archaeological projects, beginning in 1936, at the site have proved that a developed kingdom existed. Wang says the unique characteristic that makes Liangzhu culture stand out from others is its sophisticated dam system, the first ever of its kind at the time.

"The dams were designed and finished before the capital city was built, which means the prehistoric people had a detailed city plan to build public utilities," says Wang, who is in charge of the archaeological project focusing on the ancient water conservancy system.

Based on experimental testing of the ruins found at the dams, it is believed that they were built roughly 5,000 to 4,950 years ago. It is thought that the system was designed to transport goods, protect against floods and irrigate rice fields. The city wall was built 200 years later.

"I'm shocked by the sophisticated hydraulic system. People then only used very simple tools. I can't imagine how they made it," says Wang. He started work at the site in 2000 and was the one who first discovered the dam.

Author:   Editor: Ye Lijiao