Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, December 05, 2002

Archaeologists Revise Age of China's Civilization

A group of Chinese archaeologists --revising the orthodox theory that China's civilization originated 5,000 years -- believe the nation's roots can be traced back 8,000 to 10,000 years.


A group of Chinese archaeologists --revising the orthodox theory that China's civilization originated 5,000 years -- believe the nation's roots can be traced back 8,000 to 10,000 years.

They have unearthed China's earliest painting, writing, colored pottery, crop seed strain specimen and buildings showing the development from a rural to an urban society at Dadiwan Ruins in northwest China's Gansu province.

These early cultural relics, so far unrecorded in any historical book, belong to five ancient periods dating back to 8,000 years ago.

Prof. Li Xueqin, the prestigious researcher on the ancient history of China, said the discovery at Dadiwan Ruins suggested that the origins of China's civilization could be far earlier than the Shang Dynasty (16th to 11th century B.C.) and even the Xia Dynasty (2200 B.C. - 1700 B.C.).

Research findings at the Jinsha Ruins (or the ruin by the Jinsha river, one upstream tributary of China's longest Yangtze river) in southwestern Sichuan province, the 5,000-year-old Liangzhu Culture in east China's Zhejiang province and a number of other sites have yielded evidence showing they pre-existed the Xia Dynasty, the oldest period of China's recorded history.

Shi Shi, director of the Chinese Nationalities History Research Institute, noted that as early as 1997 that Chinese history could stretch back 10,000 years instead of the generally accepted 5,000 years.

Within the confinement of limited knowledge and historical data from that period, Si Maqian, a world-renowned ancient historian, set forth a theory in his book "Record of the Historian" that the Chinese civilization began with Huang Di and Yan Di, two most revered, brilliant legendary ancestors of the Chinese nation. His theory was later accepted by other scholars and experts in the ensuing historical periods and handed down to this very day, Shi said.

New archaeological, anthropological and folklore discoveries, nevertheless, indicate that the roots of the Chinese civilization started before Huang Di, he added.

Wang Wei, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "The invaluable cultural objects unearthed at the Dadiwan Ruins reflect the prehistoric cultural development on the upper reaches of the Yellow River, which had long been dubbed as the cradle of the Chinese civilization. They form a complete cultural chain in our research of the period 8,000 to 5,000 years ago."

Archaeologists in China have excavated more than 200 colored pottery items dating back 8,000 years, believed to be the earliest of their kind ever found in China.

This latest discovery proves the country's pottery are as old as that found in other ancient countries and rejected and gave a lie to the conclusion that pottery manufacture in China was introduced from the West.

The archaeologists also excavated a unique, ancient village site comprising 240 houses with a combined floor space of some 500,000 square meters, which were classified into three grades, respectively for the chieftain, clan leaders and ordinary members. It contains a 420-square-meter hall for holding sacrificial rites and other ceremonial public events and activities.

It shows the evidence of evolution to urban development and a higher stage of civilization, said Lang Shude, an associate researcher at the Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

The symbols engraved on the pottery items at the Dadiwan site were proved to be even 10 centuries older than those discovered earlier at the primitive ruins at Banpo site on the outskirts of Xi'an city in the country's northwestern Shaanxi province, which date back to 4800 to 4300 B.C..

The Dadiwan Ruins provided additional plentiful and systematic evidences to demonstrate the Chinese history is much longer than 5,000 years.

According to the criteria accepted conventionally in the West, civilization consists of a host of component elements including religion, written words, urbanization and nationality.

But, Lang Shude noted that though the Dadiwan Ruins lacked some of the factors reflecting the existence of civilization, civilization in the oriental regions would not necessarily develop along the same lines as the Western criteria do.

Meanwhile, Prof. Li Xueqin asked academic circles to respect the different history-recording methods of different countries.

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