Let's Travel Back to the Xia Dynasty
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The Wangchenggang Site in Dengfeng Where Is the Capital City of the Xia Dynasty?
In 1959, to seek the sites of the Xia Dynasty, Xu Xusheng, a famous Chinese archaeologist, discovered the Wangchenggang Site between Gaocheng town and Bafang village, which is of great significance due to its special location. According to historical documents, Yangcheng (阳城), a capital city of the Xia Dynasty or where Yu (who built the Xia Dynasty) was living, is located near Gaocheng town.
The Wangchenggang Site
Three city ruins of the late Longshan Culture period (around 2500-2000 BC) were discovered at the Wangchenggang Site, of which the large one is also the largest of its kind during the late Longshan Culture period in the Central Plains, whose carbon-14 testing results are basically consistent with the first year of the Xia Dynasty presumed in the archaeological documents. Besides, pottery wares carved with the characters of Yangcheng (阳城) or Wares of Yangcheng (阳城仓器) were also discovered at a city ruin of the Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC) located to the northwest of the large city ruin, thus proving the existence of a city named Yangcheng around the Wangchenggang Site as late as the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC-256 BC). These important findings suggest that the Wangchenggang Site was a capital city of the early Xia Dynasty, likely to be Yangcheng (阳城).
In 2020, the Wangchenggang Site was proved as a key project (2020-2024) for the study of the Xia Dynasty by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The discovery of the large rammed-earth foundation during the new round of excavation not only proves that the large city's northern and central part is a living area (most likely for aristocrats), which is helpful to understand its functional zones, but also offers some support for the central position of the large city in the Yinghe River basin and the appearance of the "states in embryonic form" around Songshan Mountain.
Major discoveries include city ruins, bronze vessel fragments, foundation pits, sacrificial pit.
For more information, please click The Wangchenggang Site: Where Is the Capital City of the Xia Dynasty?
Polished Black Pottery Gu (a ritual or drinking vessel) discovered at the Wadian Site
The Wadian Site in Yuzhou Where the Story of Abolishing Abdication System Happened
Located at the tableland in the north and northwest of Wadian village of Huolong town, Yuzhou city, Henan province, the Wadian Site is a large site of the Longshan Culture period with an area of more than 1 million square meters.
Many historical documents record that Yu (who built the Xia Dynasty) and Qi (the second king of the Xia Dynasty) once lived in Yangzhai (today's Yuzhou city). The story of Qi who called together the heads of the local states and held a grand sacrificial ritual to establish his chief position and abandon the abdication system also happened in Yuzhou. Since Yu and Qi, Yuzhou had become a main living area of the people of the Xia Dynasty. Henan Institute of Archaeology discovered the Wadian Site in 1979 followed by the first stage excavation from 1980 to 1982.
The Wadian Site, a major site of the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project, the Project for Tracing Chinese Civilization Origins and the study of the Xia Dynasty, occupies an irreplaceable position among the ancient sites of the same period in China. Important findings over the past 40 years include large circular trench, sacrificial remains, Egg-shell Black Pottery Cup with High Handle and Polished Black Pottery Gu (a ritual or drinking vessel), white pottery wares, jade, etc. The remains of bones and tortoise shells were also discovered at the Wadian Site. Judging from the cultural relics and the food remains, the site was a gathering place of people with diverse cultural backgrounds and a regional center settlement in the southeast of Songshan Mountain. Experts believe that the Yinghe River basin enjoys unique geographical advantages, which may be closely related to the rise of China's first dynasty, the Xia Dynasty.
Major discoveries include circular trench, sacrificial remains, Polished Black Pottery Gu (a ritual or drinking vessel), bones, etc.
For more information, please click The Wadian Site Where the Story of Abolishing Abdication System Happened
The Guchengzhai Site
The Guchengzhai Site in Xinmi: Thousand-Year-Old City Wall Still Stands
The Guchengzhai Site covers an area of 176,500 square meters with the discovery of three sections of city wall, rammed-earth building and corridor foundations, ash pits, tombs, foundation pits, etc. The rammed-earth foundations should be built for the palace buildings. With high wall and deep moat, it was carefully and intentionally designed and built with insular and military characteristics, showing the complete dual defense system in the the city-building history of ancient China.
Close to the core area where the Xia people lived, the Guchengzhai Site is one of the important symbols separating the culture of the Xia Dynasty form the culture of the late Neolithic Age. Particularly, the source of the rammed-earth foundations for palace buildings at the Erlitou Site has been found with the discovery of the city wall and the large rammed-earth building foundations (for palace buildings) at the Guchengzhai Site, a precedent for the layout of the palace buildings of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) which were located in Northeast Zhengzhou at that time. Besides, the Guchengzhai Site has unveiled the characteristics of the civilizations of both the Xia and the Shang dynasties, becoming an important evidence to study the formation of ancient Chinese civilization and the emergence of the state. In the 1980s, the site was named as the Ancient City of the Kuai State. However, later excavations suggest that the site is even older than the Kuai State. The remains discovered there are mainly of the Longshan Culture period.
Major discoveries include palace buildings, city walls and sacrificial pits.
For more information, please click The Guchengzhai Site in Xinmi: Thousand-Year-Old City Wall Still Stands
A 3,800-year-old red pottery bird statue discovered at the Xinzhai Site
The Xinzhai Site in Xinmi: The First Capital of the Xia Dynasty?
As for the origin and formation of ancient Chinese civilization, the mainstream has been formed that the Erlitou Culture (around 1735 BC-1530 BC) is of the Xia Dynasty, but the questions have not been resolved such as "What is the culture of the early Xia Dynasty?" and "Are there any cultures earlier than the Erlitou Culture?" From 1999 to 2000, the Center for Ancient Civilization Studies of Peking University and the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Zhengzhou jointly lunched a new excavation at the Xinzhai Site, and one of the most important findings is that they discovered the stacked remains of the third stage of the Wangwan Culture (after 2400 BC or so), the Xinzhai Phase (around 1870 BC-1720 BC) and the early stage of the Erlitou Culture. Besides, thousands of cultural relics were unearthed, more than 300 of which have been restored. Finally, sufficient evidence points to the existence of the Xinzhai Phase. Nowadays, basically the Xinzhai Phase has been confirmed to be of the Xia Dynasty, even earlier than the Erlitou Culture, which is of great significance to search for the capital ruins of the early Xia Dynasty, study its establishment and probe into the origin of ancient Chinese civilization.
Some experts pointed out that the Xinzhai Site was the capital city of the king Qi. 84.87 percent of the carbonized seeds unearthed from the Xinzhai Site are of crops, including millet, glutinous millet, unhusked rice, soybeans and wheat, sorted from the most to the least, indicating that during the Xinzhai Phase, bumper harvests had been realized. Besides, one of the prominent features of the Xinzhai Phase lies in its oriental culture, indicating the truth of the story about Dongyi (an ancient tribe in ancient East China) invading the Xia Dynasty, to some extent.
Major discoveries include the remains of the Xinzhai Phase, a 3,800-year-old red pottery bird statue, etc.
For more information, please click The Xinzhai Site in Xinmi: The First Capital of the Xia Dynasty?
The Puchengdian Site
The Puchengdian Site in Pingdingshan: Two Ancient City Ruins Discovered
Located in the north of Puchengdian village of Pingdingshan city, Henan province, the Puchengdian Site with rich cultural relics and area of some 200 thousand square meters was discovered in the 1950s and listed as one of the first batch of provincial key cultural relics in 1963. From 2004 to 2005, because of the Lankao-Nanyang Expressway construction, the Puchengdian Site was excavated for protection purpose. Particularly, two city ruins of the late Longshan Culture period and the Xinzhai Phase (or the transition period from the Longshan Culture to the Erlitou Culture) were discovered. The one of the early Erlitou Culture was rarely found in China at that time, so it should be one of the earliest discoveries of its kind then.
The remains of houses, trenches, ash pits, tombs, wells, cooking benches, etc. Another important discovery is the row house remains of the early Erlitou Culture period. Orderly arranged, the row houses, in large numbers, cover a broad area, which explains why they are important. The remains of more than 20 row houses (each with 1 to 6 rooms) were discovered in an area of more than 170 meters in length and 20 meters in width, reflecting the social transformation from group life in a primitive society to family life in a slave society. The Puchengdian Site is of great value to study the features of the late Neolithic Age and the early Erlitou Culture period in Central and South Henan, so it was listed among the sixth batch of national key cultural relics in 2006.
Henan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology has carried out archaeological investigations in the Shahe River basin, hoping to gain a deep understanding of the cultural implications of the site with the remains of the two cities and other cultural relics. Now, the systematic investigation is underway.
Major discoveries include the remains of the two cities and more than 20 row houses.
For more information, please click The Puchengdian Site: Two Ancient City Ruins Discovered
A drinking vessel discovered at the Yuzhuang Site
The Yuzhuang Site in Yexian: Unveiling the Noble Life 4,000 Years Ago
Located in the south of Yuzhuang village of Pingdingshan city, Henan province, the Yuzhuang Site was discovered in 2020, which is about 1,800-meter long from east to west and around 1,400-meter wide from south to north with an area of nearly 2 million square meters.
The Yuzhuang Site is a large site of the Longshan Culture period, with more than 100 remains like tombs, housing foundations, ash pits, cellars or caves and trenches discovered, of which the M10 tomb enjoys the most abundant burial objects, the highest grade and the most definite ritual system. The well-preserved tomb, with an area of 3.12 square meters, has one coffin in which lies a man. To the north of the coffin discovered a new skeleton, believed to buried with the tomb owner. Within the tomb, 33 cultural relics were discovered, one of which was found on the left of the tomb owner's waist while the rest in tomb's eastern area. Divided into 7 groups, the burial objects are mainly vessels for food and liquor with different but specific types, reflecting a relatively mature and standardized ritual system.
The remains of the Longshan Culture period discovered at the Yuzhuang Site can be traced back to 2100-1900 BC, belonging to the Xia Dynasty. It is one of the five new achievements of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage's major project of "Archaeological China" released on November 26, 2020, which is of great significance to study the etiquette, social development and culture of the early Xia Dynasty.
Major discoveries include the M10 tomb of the Longshan Culture period, groups of burial objects, etc.
For more information, please click The Yuzhuang Site: Unveiling the Noble Life 4,000 Years Ago
The Shizhuang Site
The Shizhuang Site in Huaiyang: 'National Granaries' of the Xia Dynasty
Located in Shizhuang village of Zhoukou city, Henan province, the Shizhuang Site was a place for storing grains during the early Xia Dynasty with rammed earth walls.
On a man-made foundation covering an area of about 5,600 square meters in Shizhuang, the remains of 29 granaries were discovered. Archaeologists not only found the remains of corn and millet at the bottom of the granaries, but also those of reed bed or knitting fabric which are believed to be the direct bedding. Such findings prove that the site was planned purposefully for storing grains.
The Shizhuang Site has China's earliest facilities of centralized grain storage discovered so far. Although such granary remains also found at the sites of Lutaigang, Erlitou and Dongxiafeng as well as the capital site of the Shang Dynasty in Luoyang's Yanshi district, the Shizhuang Site is the earliest with a clear structure and a single function among them, providing significant physical evidence for the study of the grain storage and management system at that time.
The granary remains of the Shizhuang Site can be traced back to the Xinzhai Phase in the Central Plains or the early Xia Dynasty, which is of great value for refreshing the current understanding of the social structure, administration and governance capacity of the early Xia Dynasty. On April 13, 2021, the Shizhuang Site was listed among China's top 10 major archaeological discoveries of 2020.
Major discoveries include the remains of 29 granaries.
For more information, please click The Shizhuang Site in Huaiyang: 'National Granaries' of the Xia Dynasty
A vessel unearthed at the Dongzhao Site
The Dongzhao Site in Zhengzhou: 'Bridgehead' of the Xia Dynasty
The sites and ruins of the Xia and Shang dynasties are densely distributed in Northwest Zhengzhou, one of the key areas for the study of many important academic issues related to China's Bronze Age. To explore the formation and development of the early states in the Central Plains, a team led by the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Zhengzhou and the School of Archaeology and Museology of Peking University has conducted large-scale fieldwork at the Dongzhao site since 2012 with relics of the late Longshan Culture (around 2500 BC-2000 BC), the Xinzhai Phase (around 1870 BC-1720 BC), the Erlitou Culture (around 1735 BC-1530 BC), the Erligang Culture (around 1600 BC-1400 BC), the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC-771 BC) and the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC-256 BC) discovered. Because of its long-lasting and complete archaeological cultural remains, the site is rare of its kind in the Central Plains. At the ruins of three ancient cities in different periods which are stacked on top of one another, many important cultural relics were unearthed. The relics unearthed from the small and the medium cities are related to the Xia Dynasty, while those discovered from the large city belong to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. The Dongzhao Site was listed among China's top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2014.
First built in the early Xinzhai Phase (the early Xia Dynasty), the small city was completely abandoned in the first stage of the Erlitou Culture (the middle Xia Dynasty). It is the first city site of the Xinzhai Phase discovered in the north of Songshan Mountain. First built in the second stage of the Erlitou Culture, the medium city was completely abandoned in the fourth stage of the Erlitou Culture (the late Xia Dynasty). Since there are not many city ruins of the Erlitou Culture discovered at present, the city ruins at the Dongzhao Site are indispensable for the study of the regional settlement form and geopolitical structure of the Xia Dynasty.
The Dongzhao Site might be an important military base. The sites of Dashigu, Wangjinglou and Dongzhao are all located to the east of the Erlitou Site, forming a fan shape, aiming to protect the royal families of the Xia Dynasty from the invaders of the later Shang Dynasty.
Major discoveries include the remains of three ancient cities in different periods which are stacked on top of one another, bone pits, sacrificial pits, distinctive flat-mouth pot, etc.
For more information, please click The Dongzhao Site in Zhengzhou: 'Bridgehead' of the Xia Dynasty
A pottery ware painted with cinnabar discovered at the Huadizui Site
The Huadizui Site in Gongyi: 'The Songs of the Five Sons' Composed in Luorui
Located in Luorui area (where the Luohe River flows into the Yellow River) in Gongyi city of Henan province, the Huadizui Site was first discovered in 1984 and called the Shuigou Site at that time. As one of the projects aimed at tracing the origins of Chinese civilization, it was listed as one of the seventh batch of national key cultural relics by the State Council in May 2013.
From 2001 to 2007, Zhengzhou Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology had launched several investigations and excavations at the Huadizui Site and discovered many important cultural relics, including ring trenches, sacrificial pits, house ruins, ash pits and pottery-kiln remains. Besides, implements made of stones, bones and clamshells were also unearthed along with pottery wares, jade products, pottery wares painted with cinnabar, many animal bones and grains. The four ring trenches (with southeast gates) and sacrificial pits are of great significance. With rounded corners and square shape, the three inner trenches are quite close to each other, but have different width. There seems to be a northwest-southeast road linking the people within the 4 trenches with other places, since gaps have been found in the southeast part of all the trenches. These gaps should be the trenches' southeast gates. Near the outer gate discovered multiple sacrificial pits which are irregular and nearly round in shape due to repeated usage, with a number of human bones, animal skeletons and various burial implements found.
The Huadizui Site can best represent the Xinzhai Phase remains. The less than 100-year-long history from Taikang's lose of power and Shaokang's restoration of Xia's governance is just in line with the usage duration of the Huadizui Site. The Huadizui Site of the early Xia Dynasty is believed to be the place where the 5 younger brothers of Taikang, the third king of the Xia Dynasty, composed the reputational poem Songs of the Five Sons after Taikang lost power and was driven out of the city by tribal leader Yi (around 1998 BC-1940 BC).
Major discoveries include the remains of four ring trenches, sacrificial pits, southeast gates, a teeth-shaped Zhang (a kind of blade used as ritual implement) made of black jade and two pottery wares painted with cinnabar.
For more information, please click The Huadizui Site: 'The Songs of the Five Sons' Composed in Luorui
The Shaochai Site
The Shaochai Site in Gongyi: Uncover Secrets of the Xia Dynasty under the Ordinary Field
Many historical documents record that Henan's western part was a main living area for the people of the Xia Dynasty. Since Zhenxun (斟鄩), a capital city of the Xia Dynasty, was located between the Yihe River and the Luohe River, Gongyi therefore became one of the main areas of the people at that time. The Shaochai Site is located in Shaochai village (1.5 kilometers east of Xiaozidian viallge) with the Yiluo River to its north. The Wuluo River flows into the Yiluo River from the southeast of the site. That is to say, the site is located on the tableland where the Wuluo River meets the Yiluo River. Around Shaochai village, there are many places that probably have some relationship with Zhenxun, such as Xunxi (鄩溪), Shangxun (上鄩) and Xiaxun (下鄩). The family name of Xun (寻) also originated from here.
In 1960 and 1963, the Shaochai Site was excavated twice. Although only 690 square meters was excavated, a large number of relics of the Erlitou Culture (around 1735 BC-1530 BC), the Erligang Culture (around 1600 BC-1400 BC), etc., were discovered. The remains are mainly of the Erlitou Culture (covering three stages), including house foundations, ash pits and tombs. More than 500 pieces of pottery wares, stone tools, bone implements and clam artifacts were unearthed. The discovery of large bones used in sacrificial rituals and proto-porcelains indicates that the settlement at the Shaochai area during the Erlitou Culture and the Erligang Culture not only was of higher rank, but also occupied an important position. Therefore, the site is not only significant for China's Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project and the Project for Tracing Chinese Civilization Origins, but also indispensable for the study of the Xia Dynasty. Currently the focus is to make a thorough investigation of the site. Fortunately, the investigation has made a lot of discoveries, one of which is the finding of a large trench with a length of several hundred meters at the edge of the distribution area of the relics of the Xia and Shang dynasties in the north of the village. Therefore, it is clear that the site was a high-level settlement in the Xia and Shang dynasties.
Major discoveries include the large bones used in sacrificial rituals, proto-porcelains and a large ring trench.
For more information, please click The Shaochai Site: Uncover Secrets of the Xia Dynasty under the Ordinary Field
A bronze Jue (an ancient wine vessel) discovered at the Erlitou Site
The Erlitou Site in Yanshi: A 'Dynasty' in a Small Village
In 1959, Xu Xusheng, a famous Chinese archaeologist, discovered the Erlitou Site. Over the past almost 6 decades, more significant discoveries were made. It is generally believed that the Erlitou Site is the earliest large capital city during the Bronze Age (at least 4,000 years ago) in East Asia so far uncovered, a key to the exploration of the Xia and Shang (1600 BC-1046 BC) dynasties. The Erlitou Culture (around 1635 BC-1565 BC) represented by the Erlitou Site is the earliest "core culture" in China and even East Asia at that time. Featured by its groundbreaking layout, broadness and cultural influence, Erlitou became the earliest sovereign state and established itself as the core and leader of the overall process of Chinese civilization.
It was like a dynasty, not only because of the Erlitou Site itself, but the overall distribution of the Erlitou Culture sites. Among 400 settlements of the Erlitou Culture, the 300-square-meter Erlitou was their capital (the largest one in China and even East Asia at that time), which indicates that the ritual system had been formed at that time. Besides, its overall orderly planning, palace system embodied by the large rammed-earth foundations, burial system indicated by the aristocratic tombs and sacrificial system represented by the places dedicated to sacrificial activities and relevant remains can also prove the core position of Erlitou.
The Erlitou Site has many groundbreaking findings with many "earliests" in China, such as the country's earliest main stem network, imperial city, central axis, rammed-earth building complex with multiple yards, high-level sacrificial remains, official handicraft workshop area, bronze-casting workshop, turquoise-processing facility, and a horde of ritual bronze vessels and weapons. All of them are core elements of Erlitou, the capital city.
Many scholars pointed out that the Erlitou Site was the location of Zhenxun (斟鄩), a capital city of the middle and late Xia Dynasty. The excavation at the Erlitou Site is still in progress with many new discoveries. For example, the east-west roads were found to stretch further to the west with the remains of walls discovered on the roadsides, indicating a broader grid layout.
Major discoveries include the remains of crisscross roads, foundations for palace buildings, rammed-earth building complex with multiple yards, Turquoise-inlaid Bronze Plaque, Turquoise-inlaid Dragon-shaped Bronze Object, Bronze Jue (an ancient wine vessel), jade knife with seven holes, teeth-shaped Zhang (a kind of blade used as ritual implement) made of jade, etc.
For more information, please click The Erlitou Site in Yanshi: A 'Dynasty' in a Small Village
执行：张体义 温小娟 刘春香 胡春娜 黄晖 李悦 张冬云