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China's First Female Archaeologist

     Without Zheng Zhenxiang, the tomb dating back to the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) would not have been unearthed in 1976 in the city of Anyang in central China's Henan Province.

     Zheng is the first female archeological research fellow of new China, which was founded in 1949, and she has spent 36 years excavating the Yin Ruins, the ancient capital of the Shang Dynasty, buried under Anyang.

     The occupant of the tomb uncovered in 1976 was Fu Hao, one of the queens of the Shang Dynasty, regarded as the first female general in Chinese history. With a high position, she often presided over sacrificial ceremonies and directed military actions, according to the inscriptions on the bones and tortoise shells discovered in Anyang.

     "What impressed me most in my life was finding Fu Hao's tomb," Zheng recalled.

     In 1976, Zheng organized an excavation of a palace site in the Yin Ruins, only to find that the bottom of the foundation of the palace couldn't be reached, even after they had dug five meters deep, and nothing was found over the next month.

     Many experts advised her to stop, because according to the traditional theory, there would not be a tomb in the area of a palace.

     However, Zheng Zhenxiang didn't think so. She sensed that there must be a tomb beneath the palace. She then challenged the traditional theory by innovative technology and hard work.

     As her reward, the tomb was discovered. "If I was affected by the traditional theory and changed my mind," she said, "there would have been no chance to unearth the tomb."

     Thus a treasure trove was opened by Zheng. About 2,000 articles buried with the queen, including 400 bronzeware and 700 jade articles, were found. One piece of bronzeware inscribed with the words "Fu Hao" proved Zheng was correct.

     Based on the discovered weapons, Zheng concluded that Fu Hao was slender but robust, and had mastered martial arts. Most probably, she was stronger than male generals.

     This discovery must be ascribed to Zheng's unremitting efforts. In fact, Zheng Zhenxiang is "another Fu Hao," a distinguished general in the archeological community.

     Zheng entered Beijing University in 1950. "New China gave me the chance to go to university. That was the greatest luck for me, " she said.

     In 1962, leaving the university as China's first postgraduate in archeology, Zheng came to the Yin Ruins as a research archeologist.

     The Yin Ruins, with a history of 273 years as the Shang capital, was first discovered by Chinese scholars in 1928.

     As the first archeological research fellow in China, Zheng Zhenxiang witnessed the development of this field, especially the archeological development of the Yin Ruins.

     The first institute specially devoted to archeological research was set up in the Chinese Academy of Science in 1950. Later, it built a station in Anyang, and thus resumed the excavation of the Yin Ruins, which had been interrupted by the Japanese aggression in 1936.

     Now, Chinese archeologists have defined the distribution of the royal temple, palace, tomb, residential quarters and clustering locations of a once-thriving handicraft industry.

     The Yin Ruins have attracted many noted archeologists, but Zheng Zhenxiang remains number one among them. The well-preserved Fu Hao Tomb that she discovered is now known as "the small encyclopedia of the Yin Ruins."

     Zheng Zhenxiang, now 69, said: "It's my duty to assure that people gain a thorough and objective understanding of the Yin Ruins."

     In a bid to fulfill this duty, Zheng, now retired, has remained in Anyang in charge of the excavation of another palace. (Xinhua)