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China Issues New Top 10 Archaeological Findings

China declared on Sunday its top 10 most valuable archeological findings in 2004, five of which were unearthed while constructing buildings, roads and development zones, and rescued from under the wheels of roaring bulldozers.

The 10 findings, selected from 22 candidates recommended by archaeological teams from 13 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, include a tomb complex of the Yue State dating back to the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.).

Archaeologists found in the complex, hidden in 15 small mounds, seven ancient tombs of nobles, just before the construction of an ambitious economic development zone started at Hongshan Township, Wuxi City of east China's Jiangsu Province, where the ruins were located.

"More than 2,000 relics were untombed, among which 500 were musical instruments of the Yue State period, making the tombs the largest storehouse of ancient instruments ever discovered," said Zhang Min, director of the archaeological and cultural relics research institute under the Nanjing Museum in the capital of Jiangsu, which is in charge of this site's excavation.

"Without our rescue efforts, the tombs might have been crushed to pieces by bulldozers or submerged by high-rise buildings and mansions forever," Zhang said.

China's law for the protection of cultural relics stipulates that an infrastructure construction project should be launched together with archaeological exploration and excavation. If relics are spotted, the project must be suspended or changes to the original construction plan must be made to give way to the protection of historical sites.

"Districts may develop new faces utterly different from what the construction projects designed due to the discovery of ancient ruins," said Xu Pingfang, president of the Chinese Society of Archaeology.

Related departments in Jiangsu have organized experts to map out a specific protection plan for the Hongshan tombs, which will convert the former development zone into a window displaying the Yue kingdom's history and culture.

"It is a typical example of China's many archaeological findings," said Li Peisong, an official with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The administration approved excavation of more than 600 historical sites last year, 80 percent of which were carried to rescue relics from infrastructure construction projects.

Listed as one of last year's top 10 archaeological findings, the mausoleums of two emperors of the Southern Han Kingdom during the period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-979) were also detected when a new college complex was under construction at the site.

Fortunately, the two emperors can continue their underground sleep, which has lasted for more than 1,000 years, as planners have decided to add to the 12-billion-yuan (1.45-billion-US dollar) construction project a new scheme to protect the two imperial tombs, an attractive landscape now in Xiaoguwei Island of Guangzhou City, south China's Guangdong Province, set off by other modern installations in the site.

A highway in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, linking the West Lake and the city's downtown areas, has been rebuilt to avoid destroying an imperial street of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), which was also absorbed in the latest list of the top 10 findings.

Archaeological findings can not only change construction plans, but also help protect relics. Some of the historical sites have been labeled cultural heritage to prevent them from damages and threats by local or central government departments. Some help promote tourism and spread historical knowledge after being opened to the public.

"On many occasions, archaeological excavation and the following research work have provided a reference for the evaluation of unearthed cultural relics and enactment of their protection plans," said Cao Bingwu, deputy editor-in-chief of the China Cultural Relics News.

Bad news, however, also breaks out frequently, as a large number of historical sites and cultural relics have been buried or destroyed by profit-driven construction projects, Xu Pingfang said.

This January, construction workers demolished a large section of the Great Wall in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, using the old bricks to pave a road. In March, more than 20 ancient tombs were trampled in Tongchuan, in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, during the building of a new residential development.

"That's why we should continue to select the top 10 archaeological findings in future years. It can not only help maintain the historical sites joining the activity, but also enhance the protection of cultural relics in the whole country by spreading the successful experience of the listed ones," Xu said.

China has issued its top 10 archaeological findings for a consecutive 15 years since 1990.

Peoples Daily

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