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Chinese archeologist devotes life to spreading knowledge

(People's Daily Online)    16:26, June 22, 2020
Chinese archeologist devotes life to spreading knowledge
Yang Lin (right), leads a team of archeologists conducting research in Pingtang county, southwest China’s Guizhou province.

“I may be the most travelled man from a national archaeological team,” said archeological expert Yang Lin.

In June, the retired archeologist was commissioned by the National Cultural Heritage Administration and Art Exhibitions China to lead a project to research the protection and inheritance of relic sites, such as national archaeological parks, cultural routes, and revolutionary-themed relics in Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangxi, Yunnan and Hunan provinces.

Having worked in the industry for decades, the tight schedule was not a problem for the veteran, who is now in his 60s.

Yang’s office, based in Beijing, is more like a library, where books and documents are all within arm’s reach. “Ancient relics are closely related to modern society, and it’s interesting to link the historical sites with the geographical, cultural and social environment they belonged to, and the documents that recorded them,” said Yang.

For many people, archeology is seen as a dense and uninteresting field. But Yang couldn’t disagree more, cultivating an interest in the subject even when he was a boy.

In 1978, Yang was admitted by the department of archaeology of Peking University. Ever since then, he has formed a deep bond with the subject.

In 1986, Yang took part in the recovery of Chinese porcelain products discovered by Michael Hatcher, a British marine salvor. The experience made him realize the importance of underwater archeology.

The next year, Yang and his colleagues went to the Netherlands to receive training on diving, conservation of underwater cultural relics, and underwater archeological excavation, becoming the first group of underwater archeologists in China.

In 1991, in his search for the Nanhai (South China Sea) No. 1, a cargo ship from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Yang dived to a depth of more than 20 meters to excavate the items. “I was a little bit nervous, and excited at the same time,” he recalled.

In 1996, he was given another mission – establishing the remote sensing and aerial photography archeology center. The next year, he took his, as well the country’s, first aerial photographs of the Yuan Shangdu ruins in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, northern China.

“It was fantastic looking over the ancient relics. However, back then, the devices we used were very simple. The airplane window, which was very small, was the only thing through which we could take pictures of the sites,” Yang recalled.

The archeologist said that advanced technologies and devices, such as automatic aerial cameras, satellite imaging and laser scanning, have empowered archeology.

These days, Yang is committed to bringing his archeological achievements closer to the public. Since retiring, he has been hosting public lectures every year to spread archaeological knowledge to his audiences. His lectures are also available on the internet.


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