Archaeologists have developed a clear image of a 2,000-year-old imperial garden found in south China's Guangdong Province by studying more than 100,000 seeds found in an ancient well at the relic site.
Various kinds of vegetation, including banyans and waxberries, were planted more than 2,000 years ago in the imperial garden, which belonged to the ancient state of Southern Yue, archaeologists report.
The garden is the oldest imperial garden to be excavated in China.
"It was without doubt an elegant garden decorated by plentiful flowers and trees," Zhao Zhijun, a researcher with the Institute of Archaeology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua on Tuesday.
"Members of the royal family of the Southern Yue enjoyed the beautiful scenery in the garden while tasting delicious fruits such as lychee, Chinese black olive, melon, persimmon, date, grape and apple," Zhao said.
A large amount of waxberry stones and melon seeds have been discovered in the ancient well in the garden. This is the first time that remains of melon were found in Guangdong Province, according to archaeologists.
In addition, archaeologists have also found seeds of wax gourd in the well, which are the earliest to be discovered in China so far.
"It's widely believed in academic circles that wax gourd originated in China. But archaeological evidence has never backed that up until we discovered these wax gourd seeds in the garden," Zhao said.
The fruit seeds not only tell archaeologists about the life of the nobility of the Southern Yue State, but also the long history of cultivation of fruits and development of vegetable resources in China, Zhao said.
The ancient well, in which the seeds were well preserved for more than 2,000 years, is located in the northwest area of the garden. The three-meter-deep well was used for drainage, said archaeologists.
The seeds soaked in water were preserved and gave archaeologists a chance to investigate the vegetation in the garden, Zhao said.
The remains of the palace and garden of Southern Yue State were discovered in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province in 1990s. The ancient state was founded by Zhao Tuo, a military officer of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), in 203 BC and destroyed by the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-25 AD) in 111 BC.