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The height of China's history
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15:36, December 03, 2007

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Blocks of stones lay exposed under the lovely, winter sun, telling a story of over 4,000 years of wind and rain. This a first look at the Liangzhu ancient city ruins, in Yuhang County of Zhejiang Province.

On November 29, Zhejiang Administration of Cultural Relics and Hangzhou Municipal Government announced that archaeologists uncovered the well-preserved ancient city ruins from the Liangzhu Cultural Period after eighteen months of arduous work. Yan Wenming, an archaeologist and professor at Peking University, thinks that the Liangzhu ruins are the largest known city ruins; and just follow the discovery of the Yin Dynasty ruins in Henan Province.

Ruins of the city wall.

The ruins can be traced back at least 4,300 years; cover an area of 2.9 million square meters; and the city walls average 4-6 meters in width.

Looking as magnificent as the Summer Palace, the ruins demonstrate the high level of civilization during the Liangzhu Period. "Last year, when we were developing settlements for farmers, an expedition team came to explore the area. They first found the ditch, then the mounds, and finally the grand city walls. It was amazing indeed,"said Zhang Binghuo, the director of the Liangzhu Culture Administrative Commission.

In June 2006, Zhejiang Archaeological Institute of Cultural Relics was invited to conduct a close study of the area. The initial findings prove that the ruins excavated are likely the ancient city walls surrounding Mojiaoshan Hill during the Liangzhu Cultural Period.

The ancient city of Liangzhu is rectangular in shape with rounded corners, and faces north. The city extends 1,500-1,700 meters from east to west, and 1,800-1,900 meters north to south. The 6 kilometers of wall surround an area of 2.9 million square meters: the size of the Summer Palace. The adobe walls, built on stone foundations, are the widest existing walls found thus far.

However, its size is not the only thing that matters. The unearthed graves vary in structure and the tomb chambers reveal different levels of sophistication. This indicates that the Liangzhu Period was an early civilization, symbolized by the clear distinction drawn between social classes in funeral structures.

Researchers speculate that there might also be a kingdom at the site because the construction of such a magnificent building complex required macro-control and effective organization in the days gone by.

The Liangzhu culture is a prehistoric culture, dating back to BC 5,000- BC 4,000. The sphere of its influence reached as far as Shanxi to the north, and to Guangdong in the South. It is among the earliest of civilizations, materially proven; and equally as valuable as the famous Yin Dynasty ruins. Whether the discovery of the Liangzhu ruins means that we will have to re-trace our way back to the origins of Chinese civilization, however; is still a hot debate among historians.

"After all, what we have so far is only a fraction of this old civilization. The Liangzhu culture in itself defies analysis in that it has left no written accounts, or any records of a founder. Therefore, it is still too early to say that a Liangzhu Dynasty existed in China's history,"stated Ge Jianxiong, a professor at Fudan University.

By People's Daily Online

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