Hongshan Culture, was active along the Liaohe River in today's northeastern China. They both date back five millennia, and their rituals and artefacts share some similarities.
An ongoing exhibition in the Wulin Pavilion of Zhejiang Museum currently displays artefacts from both Hongshan and Liangzhu areas, offering visitors a unique opportunity to compare the characteristics and similarities.
The whole exhibition is divided into four parts – Glory of Civilization, Worship, Inhabitants and Jade. About 260 sets of relics show how the two cultures traveled through time and space for thousands of years and finally met each other at the diversified origin of Chinese civilization.
Through refined jade artefacts, well-defined hierarchies and agricultural and handicraft skills, Hongshan and Liangzhu people both epitomized the heights that human civilization could reach in that era.
Although they both eventually went into decline, their cultural elements did not die out completely. Together with other Neolithic cultures in China, they became a trickle of water that converged at the source of the 5,000-year-long Chinese civilization.
A river has always been seen as a cradle for human beings, and this was exactly the case for the ancestors of Hongshan. Its relic sites stretch over the drainage basin of Liaohe River which runs through Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Jilin and Liaoning.
Ancestors lived along rivers created a thriving jade culture. The excavated handicrafts feature mature techniques and smooth lines and surfaces. The styles and production techniques resemble those of their counterparts from Liangzhu.
A jade axe from Hongshan is on display in the first part of the exhibition, and it has a symbolic meaning rather than practical use. Ancestors were believed to use it to designate hierarchy. Another stone axe from Liangzhu featuring a similar design suggests that many early characteristics of Chinese civilization were absorbed during the era when different cultures spread.
Large-scale altars were found in both Hongshan and Liangzhu during years of excavation and research. Their jade objects feature deities and mythical creatures, as two different styles of jade birds in the second display hall attest.