CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 7, September 2006


Briefs | China Heritage Quarterly


More than 500 objects unearthed by archaeologists excavating a stretch of the Sui-Tang dynasty Grand Canal in Suzhou, Anhui province, since April this year went on display at the Unusual Rocks Gallery (Qishi-guan) in Suzhou on 19 September 2006. Among the finds at the Sui-Tang site are examples of ceramics from more than 20 distinctive ancient kiln systems. One ceramic find which raised eyebrows is a Tang dynasty object designated a chuiwan (lit., 'putting ball') made from jiaotai ('striated body') glazed pottery and which is described by excavators as the world's earliest 'golf ball', lauded as a discovery 'demonstrating that in the Tang dynasty our ancestors were playing golf'.

The bed of the ancient Grand Canal which is being excavated was once 32.65m in width at the surface, 20m in width on the bed of the canal, and 5m deep. This is the second excavation conducted by archaeologists at this site; the first dig was in 1999, when the excavation was cited as one of 'the ten major excavations' of that year.


On 20 September the State Council ratified in principle a set of draft regulations on the protection and restoration of the Great Wall. The regulations will be further revised in the light of suggestions from the public and will be promulgated 'in due course'.


Beijing's constant rebuilding continues to take a toll on ancient buildings and houses. In covering a recent forum on urban construction held in Beijing, Shanghai Daily on 20 September 2006 reported that the 62.5 sq km old city of Beijing is 'shrinking' by 1 square kilometer per year as old downtown areas with traditional courtyard housing (siheyuan) are replaced by high-rise apartment complexes.


Wang Zishu, a museum curator from Shenzhen, told the China Museum Curators Forum in Beijing on 20 September 2006 that, 'there are about 2,300 museums in China. This means there is one museum for every 600,000 Chinese on average, compared to 100,000 to 200,000 in Western countries. China still lags behind. Some museums are always crowded, others are too quiet. It shows Chinese museums fail to meet the diverse cultural life of its people'.


Shexian county in Anhui province is hoping to become China's 'most renowned ancient town', and the Shexian county government announced in the first week of September 2006 that it was investing RMB 280 million yuan on restoration work. The county government states that it is enlisting China's leading academic authorities on ancient architecture to supervise planning. The plan envisages individual streets restored to their original appearance, but it is not clear from the brief press reports whether the restoration is aiming to recreate the city as it was in the Song, Yuan, Ming or Qing dynasties. Shexian is sometimes described as one of China's 'four renowned ancient towns', the other three being Langzhong in Sichuan province, Lijiang in Yunnan, and Pingyao in Shanxi.


On 15 September 2006 scholars from Germany, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China gathered in Hoboksar Mongol Autonomous County, located in the north-western part of Xinjiang, to attend a conference organised by the Ethnic Literature Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on the Mongol folk epic Jangger. Scholars will also attend celebrations of the 80th birthday of folk artist Jia Zhunai, the most renowned living performer of the epic. The conference and celebrations also marked the inauguration by CASS of a field research centre (tianye yanjiudian) for researching Jangger. Jangger is one of China's best-known ethnic epics, and it was included as Item No.26 on the list of the nation's intangible cultural heritage items issued by State Council on 20 May 2006.

A local school in Hoboksar has also introduced courses in recitation to ensure that the knowledge of the epic of the folk hero Jangger Khan is passed on to a younger generation. Fifteen local Mongol youths, including Jia Zhunai's grand-son, have been given the title Jangger-qi, 'performers of Jangger'.

In an unrelated development, several days previously it was reported from Xinjiang that the Maikit county government had also set up a two-year training course for 36 local youths between 14 and 18 years of age to study the distinctive Dolan muqam, an integral part of the intangible heritage property. The Dolan, included within the Uyghur muqam as one of China's world intangible cultural heritage masterpieces, is unique in that it includes hunting songs and dances within its traditional nine-part programmatic repertoire.


Xinhua News Agency reported on 15 September 2006 that China has set up a national centre to better protect the nation's intangible cultural heritage. Wang Wenzhang, president of the China Arts Academy, was quoted as saying that, 'With the establishment of the centre, we hope to complete a nationwide assessment of the country's intangible cultural heritage within three years'. Wang said the national centre will focus on the academic study, investigation and promotion of China's intangible cultural heritage in a bid to achieve better conservation.


On 15 September 2006, Henan Provincial Department of Culture announced that it had completed the process of accepting nominations for its own listing of intangible cultural heritage items. The province-wide list totalled 221 nominated items. In the week following this announcement, the provincial government organised a panel of experts to assess the nominations. The provincial government also invited members of the public to make their views and suggestions on nominations known to the Henan Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Centre.

The largest number of nominations came from Xinxiang city, which recommended 26 cultural items, including the legend of Liu Yi, the culture of Yue Fei, Changyuan cuisine and the Baiquan temple fair. Jiaozuo city, with 25 nominations, was a close second, and in third place was Sanmenxia city with 16 nominations.

The 221 nominations included items for which applications were made last year and for which no new supporting documentation was provided this year, as well as items applied for last year but for which new documentation was provided.


Xinhua News Agency reported on 18 September that the Hengdian Group, a large film and television conglomerate from Zhejiang province, will invest RMB 2.47 billion yuan to reconstruct Yuanming Yuan (Garden of Perfect Brightness) in the vicinity of Dongyang, Zhejiang province, to give impetus to the local tourist industry. The company already has one theme park development containing a replica of the Forbidden City, the legendary Qin dynasty Epang Palace of Emperor Qin Shihuang and a thriving Song dynasty market street, which attracted 3.2 million visitors in 2005.

The Hengdian Group plans to reconstruct Yuanming Yuan to scale on a 350 hectare site over a five-year period. A company spokesman has described the project as both 'a multi-functional theme park' and 'an educational base of patriotism', but the plans have attracted adverse criticism in the press. For example, Professor Peng Jixiang from Peking University has been quoted as saying that, 'it will be impossible to rebuild the Old Summer Palace wherever it is located, and any attempt to rebuild the gardens can only be a mawkish imitation'.

According to Xinhua News Agency, China now has approximately 2,500 theme parks, in which a total of RMB150 billion has been invested, yet only 10 per cent of these turn a profit.


Discovered in 1981, the Niuheliang neolithic site outside Chaoyang city, Liaoning province, has contributed greatly to our knowledge of Hongshan neolithic culture and the emergence of a distinctive Chinese civilization, defined by its exquisite jades, stone carving and primordial dragon images. The site is now part of a protected area covering more than 56 sq km. On 11 September it was reported that the China World Heritage Committee of State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) has included the site on its list of proposals to UNESCO for consideration as a world heritage site, after culling through an initial list containing nearly 200 proposals. The report notes that Niuheliang was proposed by SACH twice in the 1990s.


Cooperation between China and Italy in the field of antiquities' restoration since 1988 was highlighted during Prime Minister Romado Prodi's visit to China in mid-September, when China and Italy signed a letter of intent establishing a joint centre in Beijing for repairing, preserving, managing and utilizing cultural relics from both sides. Chinese newspaper reports also suggested that China and Italy may make a joint application for the inclusion of the ancient Silk Road on UNESCO's world heritage list.

This follows a report on 3 August 2006 that representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Italy and China attending a conference in Beijing held by UNESCO and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage were discussing a joint application for the listing of the Silk Road as a World Heritage property.


On 13 September 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported that the home village of the Yellow Emperor outside Xinzheng, Henan province, received 2.4 million visitors in the first half of 2006, an eightfold increase over the same period last year. Although sacrificial worship of the Yellow and Fiery emperors was initiated in Xinzheng in 1992, the elevation of the cult to the status of an item of intangible cultural heritage has given official endorsement to the ceremonies honouring the Yellow Emperor, who is credited with inventing writing and wheeled vehicles, to name only his more modest achievements. The city of Xinzheng has drawn up a twenty year plan to develop 'Yellow Emperor culture' (Huangdi wenhua kaifa zongti guihua, 2005-2025).


On 13 September 2006, it was announced at the Dunhuang Tibetan studies conference in Lanzhou's North-western University that two large volumes of reproductions of Tibetan manuscripts from the Tubo period (9th century) found in the Library Cave at Dunhuang by Paul Pelliot more than a century ago have now been published in Lanzhou. For nearly one decade China has been involved in joint publishing ventures providing scholars with access to documents from Dunhuang now held in state collections in London, Paris and St. Petersburg.


On 11 September 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported that 37 prominent artists, including Han Meilin and Chen Dazhang, have decided to strike back at auction houses in Beijing that sell paintings falsely attributed to them as genuine works by organising their own auction sale. Beijing now has more than 200 auction companies and about 80-90 per cent of the lots on offer are fakes, artist Chen Dazhang is quoted as saying. This is the latest in a series of actions by artists to expose auction house fraud. Several days previously, Chinese monk artist Shi Guoliang tried to prevent an auction house selling forgeries of his works, but the auction company ignored his demands. Recently, another well-known contemporary painter, Wu Guanzhong, called for the cancellation of an auction scheduled to be held on September 17, saying that none of the paintings on sale which were attributed to him were authentic. Many of these forgeries nevertheless sell for enormous sums of money.

Kong Fanzhi, administrative director of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage, revealed on 21 September that the proliferation of fakes 'may impact on this year's antique auction market'. He made this comment when introducing the work plan for his administration for the years 2006-10. The plan is part of Beijing's overall 11th Five-Year Plan, the blueprint for Beijing's social and economic development over the next five years, during which time the market is expected to reach RMB20 billion yuan (USD2.47 billion) in trade volume in 2010, doubling the 2005 figure. Any fears that fakes will harm the market, and perhaps more importantly the perception that the market is inundated with fakes, seem to be offset by the ability of local mainland auction houses to attract antiques from abroad.

Kong Fanzhi revealed that about 10,000 'Chinese ancient art works' have returned to Beijing for sale since January this year, and that more were returning each year.


At the beginning of September, a spokesman for the Dunhuang Research Institute announced that the digitization of 22 of the 735 Mogao grottoes had been completed. The digital centre was co-founded by the institute and the Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust of the USA.


On 10 September 2006 the Shaanxi provincial government announced that it was investing RMB 500 million yuan on 'cultural relics protection'. Shaanxi has 10,497 historic sites and 4,368 ancient tombs.


On 6 September 2006, the construction of the Museum of Chairman Mao in Shaoshan, his hometown in Hunan province, got underway. The museum, the main section of which will be completed by October, is intended to be the centrepiece of what is called the National Patriotism Educational Demonstration Base (NPEDB) in Shaoshan. Two other NPEDBs, which are projects earmarked both for 'Red Travel' and 'sustainable development for national patriotism education', are located in the old revolutionary bases of Jinggangshan and Yan'an. The entire NPEDB at Shaoshan will be completed by 2007.


At the beginning of September 2006, officials of Huangshan city in Anhui province announced that the city is nominating 'abacus algorithm culture' as its intangible cultural heritage, by virtue of the fact that Huangshan was the home of Cheng Dawei (1533-1606). Cheng is the author of Suanfa tongzong (A general survey of the algorithm), the essential scientific work on abacus calculation. From 23 September 2006 onwards, Huangshan is staging commemorative activities, a conference to celebrate Cheng Dawei's scholarship, and a national children's abacus contest.


The Forbidden City's most highly prized ancient painting has again been described as a fake. On 30 August 2006, Lou Wei, deputy-director of the Palace Museum's cultural heritage management office, denied that the masterpiece Qingming shanghe tu (Ascending the river on Qingming festival) attributed to the Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan was a forgery. He was responding to a report that Bo Gongyue, scholar and marketing chief of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage (Wenwu-ju), had said that the painting was an imitation and that the original had long been lost.


On 28 August 2006, Xi'an Intermediate People's Court handed down suspended death sentences to two tomb robbers, and imposed sentences of 15 years' imprisonment on two others. The four were found guilty of having illegally excavated a Song dynasty tomb in Lantian county, near Xi'an, in January this year, and to have stolen 119 items. The two convicted thieves who received the suspended death penalty also had their personal property, including cars and houses, confiscated.


On 21 August 2006, Xinhua News Agency's Hami bureau in Xinjiang reported that a joint archaeological team from the Archaeology Department of North-west University in Lanzhou and the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute had discovered what they have described as 'the largest settlement site of an ancient nomadic culture found in China to date' covering an 8.75 sq km area north of Dongheigou in Shirenzi-xiang, Balikun Kazak Autonomous County, Xinjiang. The team has been engaged in archaeological work in this area since 2005. Scattered across this large tract of land are what are described as three large 'sacrificial terraces', the foundations of 140 stone enclosed dwellings, ten ancient graves and 2,485 examples of rock art. The rock illustrations are described as scenes of individual and collective hunting, as well as scenes coyly defined as documenting 'fertility worship of matriarchal and patriarchal periods'. One illustration shows a man wearing a tall fan-shaped hat, with what might be either a bow and quiver or a water container strapped around his waist, although the man's three legs are said to 'indicate unusual strength'.

Excavation of the sacrificial terrace began in July 2006. The centre of the quadrilateral terrace is covered with small round pebbles and larger pebbles surround the altar on all four sides. There is a large fire pit on the terrace and to its eastern side there are 15 large 'stone querns'. In the fire pit and on the surrounding surface, many pottery shards were found.

Remains of fire-places are also found in some of the dwellings, together with pottery shards and animal bones. A human skeleton suggests that it may have been a sacrificial offering. The comprehensive site appears to have been occupied over a very long period of time, but archaeologists are not yet hazarding a guess at the date of the site.


On 17 August 2006, Xinjiang Economic News reported some preliminary findings of an expedition led by Professor Yang Lian of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Delixat Roz in the Lop region of Bayingol Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang. Yang Lian and his Shan Kingdom Ancient Culture Survey Group are searching for remains of the Shan kingdom road that linked Turfan and Lop Nur during the Han dynasty. Shan or Heishan was one of the 'thirty-six states of the Western Region' mentioned in Han shu, an ancient text that locates this small state between Loulan and Gushi (Cheshi). The state disappeared from the historical record after the Northern Dynasties when Kongque (Peacock) River changed course. Journalists and TV cameramen are travelling with the expedition. Yang Lian believes that the Shan state is located somewhere in the Kuluk Tagh mountains, an area inhabited by people known as the Lopliks. From Bayingol the expedition will proceed via the ancient city site near Jimsar, north-east of Urumqi, to Yining.


Tianjin's daily newspaper Meiri xinbao reported on 21 August 2006 that the Tianjin municipal government's 15-year comprehensive plan for the city's development in the period 2005 – 2020 also addresses the preservation of intangible heritage items. The report describes cites intangible heritage as including local folk art forms and clay carving such as Yangliuqing New Year paintings, pingju drama, dagu, shidiao and xiangsheng, as well as laozihao brands (e.g. Goubuli baozi, Guifaxiang, Erduoyan, Lishunde, Kiesslings' and Laomeihua). Altogether the city has 14 protected and historical cultural areas, respectively called baohu-qu and lishi wenhua-qu in the article, six state-level key protected sites, 88 municipal-level 'cultural relics protected units' (wenwu baohu danwei) and more than 850 'historical flavoured buildings' (lishi fengmao jianzhu), but no attempt is made to quantify or provide a comprehensive listing of these in the report.


On 20 August 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported that Zhongnanhai will remain closed to the public, despite the fact that it is listed as a 'key cultural relics site'. Zhongnanhai abutting the Forbidden City on its western side was the residence of 20th century Chinese leaders, from Yuan Shikai to Mao Zedong. Xinhua cited Xu Pingfang, president of the Chinese Archaeological Society, who is quoted as explaining that Zhongnanhai will remain closed to the public 'for reasons of preservation and security', and added an assurance from Luo Zhewen that 'the cultural relics in Zhongnanhai are mostly intact, although some were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution'. Zhongnanhai remains the site of the headquarters of the Communist Party of China, although it had been briefly opened in the 1980s to Chinese visitors with a security clearance from their work units. The Xinhua News Agency report effectively shifted responsibility for the decision to keep this heritage site closed to well-respected figures from China's archaeological and conservation communities.


A six-day International Chinese Mythology Seminar opened in Zhoukou, Henan province, on 10 August 2006. It was attended by scholars from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, Germany, Finland, Mexico and Belgium. The conference was held under the auspices of the mythology committee recently set up under the Chinese Folk Literature and Art Society to help promote studies in this field.


In August 2006 more than 300 Chinese from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao made the annual pilgrimage to Shenongjia, a national nature reserve in Hubei province named for Shen Nong (Divine Farmer) of ancient Chinese mythology, to participate in a grand ceremony offering sacrifices to Yandi. Yandi (Fiery Emperor) and Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) are regarded as the legendary co-founders of the ethnic Han Chinese people, who are sometimes styled 'descendants of Yandi and Huangdi' (Yan-Huang zhi zi).

Below a recently erected 21-metre-high statue of Yandi, 'official and folk rites' were performed to commemorate this ancestor of the Chinese nation. Although Yandi is the ancestor of the China's overwhelmingly dominant Han ethnic group, the width and height of the statue symbolically total 56 metres, signifying the solidarity and prosperity of China's 56 ethnic groups. The five-colour stones in the quadrate graphics at the shrine embody the five basic elements - metal, wood, water, fire and earth - based on a theory used by ancient Chinese philosophers to explain the origins of the world.

Ancestor cults are big tourist business, and are designed to create solidarity with ethnic Chinese from around the world, and especially from the area of Greater China. Wang Zongyan, a consultant with Taiwan's non-governmental organisation for the promotion of cross-Straits economic and trade communication, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency on 7 August 2006 as saying that 'at this crucial historical moment of the Chinese nation striving for rejuvenation, the people across the Taiwan Straits all wish to inherit the ancestor's heritage and promote the nation's spirit'.


Moves to preserve a brothel built in 1733 in the ancient town of Jinggang, Hunan province, have proved controversial, according to a Xinhua News Agency report of 17 August. Known as Hongtai Fang, the well preserved brothel is a fine example of southern Chinese architecture of the Qing dynasty. The building is similar to an ancient theatre in its layout, highlighting the fact that there was a fine line between the theatre and the bordello in the entertainment quarters of ancient Chinese cities. Criticism of government moves has appeared on the internet, where opponents of the conservation efforts have accused the government of giving the green light to prostitution. Conservation authorities in Hunan have held public meetings to debate the issue. Chai Xiaoming, an official with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, is quoted by Xinhua as saying, 'It's irrational to think that protection of the brothel means approval of history's injustices'.


On 15 August 2006, Xinjiang Daily reported the survey and excavation by archaeologists from the Xinjiang Archaeology Institute of a large ancient walled town in Bostan village, 4 km south-west of the administrative centre of Tekes county on the northern banks of the Tekes river in Xinjiang. The site was first reported in 1968 when farmers levelled part of the eastern wall of the town to create new farmland. Tekes county is located east of Yining and the Tekes river is one of the upper tributaries of the Ili river. Bronze age and iron age sites related to the ancient Xiongnu and Turkic peoples, as well as distinctive neolithic pastoral cum agricultural cultures, have been discovered and identified in this area.

Archaeologists have designated the newly excavated site as the ancient city of Bostan (Bositan gucheng), in accordance with standard Chinese archaeological practice. The pottery, bone and timber relics found in the remains of the walled town suggest that it should be dated to the Tang dynasty. Three of the walls once surrounding the town have been identified; the southern and northern walls measure 206 m in length and the western wall is 162 m long. Some surviving walls range between 5-7 m in height and 18-21 m in width. The walls are steep and in several places there are remains of the architectural feature of ramparts designated mamian. However, this term is imprecise – it can refer to access ramps or to overhanging defensive balconies at the top of a parapet – and it is not clear from the brief report what type of mamian is indicated.

Lü Enguo of the Xinjiang Archaeology Institute believes that the walls of the town with their unique features suggest that the town was constructed by ethnic Han people, presumably a garrison colony, and not by the Turkic people of the Tang dynasty called Tujue. He has also suggested that this may have been the military headquarters or garrison of the Xiaoxiang Army stationed in the Tekes river valley of the Ili region in the Tang dynasty.


The first international conference, described by Xinhua as a 'summit meeting' (gaofeng luntan), on the Hongshan archaeological culture, which opened on 10 August 2006 in the city of Chifeng in Inner Mongolia, highlighted the most recent finds and theories. The conference, under the joint auspices of the Chifeng Cultural Relics Bureau and the Chifeng Academy, was attended by archaeologists from the USA, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Hongshan culture is a term that has been used by Chinese archaeologists since 1935 to denote a distinctive transitional pastoral and farming culture in the Liao river valley and the Yanshan mountains, an area spanning the Central Plains and China's north-east. Although the culture's distinctive stone structures attracted the attention of European, Japanese and Chinese archaeologists in the first half of the 20th century, the major discoveries were made from the 1970s onwards. Unique among Chinese archaeological cultures are the 'Venus' figurines and distinctive masks associated with the culture, as well as the Hongshan culture's formidable mastery of jade carving. The culture disappeared about five thousand years ago, when there was a significant fall in temperature in this area.

One of the major centres of that culture is the Chifeng region of eastern Inner Mongolia. Professor Xu Zifeng, director of the history department of the Chifeng Academy, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency's Hohhot bureau on 15 August 2006 as stating that Hongshan culture was one of the sources of China's pre- or proto-Shang civilisation. In other words, this borderland culture was one of the sources of what is identified as China's mainstream civilisation. Professor Xu argues that with the change of climate five millennia ago, the Hongshan people split into three groups: one migrated to the Liaodong peninsula and another travelled via the Greater Khinggan mountains to the grasslands east of Lake Baikal, but the majority travelled south via today's Hebei into Henan and there they mixed with the local inhabitants to contribute to proto-Shang cultural formations. Xu states that this is underscored by the similarities in form between a Hongshan jade dragon unearthed in the 1970s at Ongniud Banner in Inner Mongolia and Shang dynasty dragons and later Shang jade dragons unearthed from the Fu Hao (Lady Hao) tomb in Anyang. Professor Xu also argues that the jade bird figures unearthed from Hongshan stone coffin tombs represent a bird totem worshipped by the Hongshan ancestors and that this has obvious common origins with the bird deity worshipped by the Shang people. Instances of stone coffin burials like those of the Hongshan culture have also been found in proto-Shang areas of the Central Plains.

Wu Jiacai, an 'amateur' archaeologist and historian from Ongniud Banner in Inner Mongolia, reported the results of his search for ancient rock art sites across more than 20 administrative divisions called sumu ('townships') within this banner of Inner Mongolia. He has discovered more than ten rock art groups. Among the carvings he found is an illustration at Baimiaozi measuring 119 cm in length carved into a black basalt rock resembling a large potato which is described by Gai Shanlin, an authority on rock art from the Inner Mongolia Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute, as a neolithic representation of the seven stars that form the Northern Dipper constellation, as it appeared in the area ten thousand years ago. The large potato-shaped rock features other illustrations of 'deities' that may link the creators of this example of rock art with that at the Helanshan and Yinshan sites. Wu Jiacai also notes links between one Baimiaozi 'deity' and an image of what is described by archaeologists as a Shang dynasty 'double-dragon beast face' at the remote Sanxingdui site in Sichuan. This rock art site at Baimiaozi is not far from where a Hongshan culture jade mask was discovered, and within the Baimiaozi district the oldest example of a jade dragon is sometimes said to have been found. The latter is a nephrite 'dragon' pendant with hooked cloud designs and a boar's snout attributed to Hongshan culture.

At the same conference, historian Lei Guangzhen argued that two sections of the ancient text Shanhai jing (Classics of the Seas and Mountains) - 'Haiwai xi jing' and the 'Dahuang xi jing', document Hongshan culture. Shanhai jing was compiled in the period from the early Warring States period down to the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE), and is unique in the early Chinese tradition of classics, being a fabulist geographical work. Countless efforts to provide a literal reading of the text have appeared. The latest interpretation by Professor Lei, principal of the Chaoyang Teacher Training College's Science School, is based on the reading of the 'sea' in the title of the work as signifying Bohai Gulf; thus the 'Haiwai xi jing' section describes the Hongshan culture areas in the Dalinghe and Laohahe river valleys. 'Dahuang' (the great wilderness) in the text of Shanhai jing he identifies as the Horqin desert in central Inner Mongolia, and so this section is a record of another area occupied by Hongshan culture. Although such a literal interpretation enables Professor Lei to link some passages describing unusual beasts in Shanhai jing with Hongshan iconography and to confirm and pinpoint the geographical setting of some mythic-prehistoric events, such as the battle between Chi You and Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) long held to have taken place in Hebei, the work was compiled two millennia after Hongshan culture passed from the scene.


In mid-August 2006, Tian Yaqi, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, outlined some of the institute's latest finds in a release issued through Xinhua News Agency. New finds had uncovered more data regarding the history of the Qin state in the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) before Qin Shihuang proclaimed himself emperor and established China's first unified empire. Excavations at the site of a 2,500-year-old ceramics kiln in Yongcheng, an early capital of the Qin state, resulted in the discovery of two terracotta figurines that provide information on the early history of Qin terracotta sculpture prior to the massive project of creating a terracotta army for Qin Shihuang. At an ancient ceramics site a large number of building components were also found, including about 2,000 roof tile fragments. Some of the tile-ends (called wadang) were decorated with animal motifs – tigers, phoenixes, toads and deer. Yongcheng served as the capital of the state of Qin for 290 years and this kiln site, discovered by farmers in 2003 and covering 22,000 sq m, is to be preserved.


On 8 August 2006 Chengdu announced that it was constructing what is intended to be China's first park devoted to 'local intangible cultural heritage'. The park in the Jinniu district of town will be constructed in three stages. The first stage will open to the public in June 2007 and the second and third stages will take a further two years to complete. The park is envisaged enclosing ten villages – devoted to different folk customs and folk art forms.


On 5 August 2006 a ceremony was held to inaugurate a one-year project to restore the 600-year-old Imperial Ancestral Temple, on the eastern side of Tian'anmen Rostrum. The temple, once an integral part of the Forbidden City, was renamed the Working People's Cultural Palace after 1949 and during the Cultural Revolution decade (1966-1976) concrete floor tiles were installed in the building. The restoration, under the auspices of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage, will use traditional building methods. The concrete floor tiles, which were laid during the Cultural Revolution decade in anticipation of Richard Nixon's visit, will be replaced by the 'golden bricks' used in the Forbidden City. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, on occasions such as an emperor ascending to the throne, a triumphant return from battle or the presentation of prisoners of war, the emperor would first come to the temple to offer sacrifices to his ancestors.

Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage has already commenced work on restoration projects at 13 of 17 historical sites this year, in accordance with its 'Olympics cultural protection programme'. These projects include repair and renovation of: Qiongdao Island in Beihai Park, which began in July, 2005; a two-year repair work on the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City, which recently commenced; restoration and maintenance work at the Summer Palace, scheduled for completion in early October; and renovation work on the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvest in the grounds of the Temple of Heaven, which finished in April 2006. The Echo Wall in the Temple of Heaven has been closed since 25 May for refurbishment.

Maintenance work is also well underway at the following World Heritage sites in Beijing: the Great Wall, the Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and the Beijing Man site in Zhoukoudian. All these sites are being prepared for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.


On 4 August 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported the discovery during the course of an archaeological ongoing survey in Chifeng city, Inner Mongolia, of a group of Liao tombs in Dayingzicun village, Yuzhoudizhen town, Keshiketeng Banner. One brick-chambered tomb robbed at an early date was nevertheless found to still contain a stone coffin, the inside of which was decorated with a painted scene of Khitan people hunting. Archaeologists continue to excavate this Liao dynasty site.


Guangming Daily reported on 3 August 2006 the discovery in the Dunhuang region of a fragment of hemp paper bearing an inscription of more than twenty Chinese characters. The paper has been dated to the Western Han dynasty – one century earlier than the time of Cai Lun, the man Chinese traditionally credit with the invention of paper.


On 2 August 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported the completion of restoration work on 30 Tang dynasty frescoes discovered by Zhang Yuzhong of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeological Institute in 2002 at a temple site in Dandan Oilik, near Niya in Xinjiang. The restoration of the frescoes, which are painted on adobe and cover a total area of 10 sq m, was carried out by Chinese and Japanese conservationists at the institute's laboratories in Urumqi.


On 31 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported from the National Conference on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province, that a four-tier structure, ranging from the state level and running down through the provincial, municipal and county levels, was being implemented gradually across China to address cultural protection measures. The documentation and archiving of such cultural properties within this four-tier structure represent what is described as 'a necessary preliminary undertaking'.


A national law for protecting intangible cultural heritage will be introduced in 2007, according to a report on 2 August 2006 from the National Conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage Work in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province. Yunnan, Guizhou, Fujian and Guangxi provinces, as well as a number of cities and counties have already strengthened local regulations and laws protecting traditional folk and ethnic cultures, while a number of provinces (Hebei, Shandong, Guangdong and Xinjiang) have set up leading groups or organised interdepartmental conferences addressing the question of intangible cultural heritage protection, as well as setting up centres at the provincial level to handle the protection of intangible cultural heritage. The most comprehensive preliminary legal framework for protection has been devised by cultural departments in Hebei and Guangdong provinces.


Authorities in Nanjing announced on 31 July 2006 that construction of a subway station under the site of an ancient palace of the Ming dynasty, when Nanjing was the southern capital, will not proceed. The government of Nanjing has ruled that the subway station between the Daxingong and Zhongshan Gate section of the No.2 Metro line, which is under construction, will now be built on the campus of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA). In June the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) promoted the 600-year-old site to national-level protection status and recommended to the Nanjing Municipal Government that the planned station be relocated.


Excavations at what is believed by many to be the site of the remains of the Epang Palace of Emperor Qin Shihuang continue to attract controversy regarding whether the palace was actually ever built. On 1 August 2006, it was reported on-line from Xi'an that archaeologists had uncovered what they believed to be the western perimeter of the tamped earth platform on which ancient builders either constructed or planned to construct the front hall of the palace. Archaeologists will now attempt to identify the eastern edge of the palace site.


On 31 July 2006, a national conference on intangible cultural heritage conservation got underway in Mudanjiang city, Heilongjiang province. Attending the conference were the Vice-Minister of Culture Zhou Heping, as well as Party and government representatives from Heilongjiang, Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces, keen to identify potential 'exchange' projects. Heilongjiang has only nine items on the national list of more than 500 intangible cultural properties.


The National Palace Museum, now based in Taipei, and the Palace Museum in Beijing both trace their founding back to 10 October 1925. They might share a birthday, but the Palace Museum in Beijing celebrated the 80th anniversary of its founding last year. Citing delays in its major renovation project, the National Palace Museum is celebrating its 80th anniversary one year after the event between 15 July and 15 October 2006. Not to be out-manoeuvred, Beijing's Palace Museum is sharing in the second round of celebrations and publicity by organising an exhibition of historic photographs documenting aspects of the museum's history. To solicit photographs from the general public for the exhibition planned for later in the year, Beijing's Palace Museum is offering a total in RMB100,000 yuan of prize money for selected photographs. Ironically, all official publicity regarding the exhibition describes this year as the 80th anniversary of the National Palace Museum, invoking the old title of the Gugong still used in Taiwan.


Zhang Tian'en, an archaeologist with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute, told Xinhua News Agency on 29 July 2006 that, after more than a year's excavation and research of a large tomb in Shaanxi province, his institute has concluded that the tomb belonged to the grandmother of Qin Shihuang, China's first emperor. The newly excavated tomb is chronologically the closest to the mysterious mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, and was probably built on the emperor's orders. 'We are hoping that the excavation of his grandmother's tomb will help unravel the mystery surrounding the first emperor's mausoleum, which still cannot be excavated. It will also contribute to research into Qin dynasty burial culture', Zhang said.

The tomb, located on the southern outskirts of Xi'an, is the second largest ancient tomb excavated in China. Only the tomb of Duke Jing of the state of Qin (897-221 BCE) is larger. Located under the new campus of the Xi'an Business College, the tomb is about 30 km south-west of Qin Shihuang's famous mausoleum.

The tomb, measuring 550 m in overall length and 310 m in width, covers an area of 17.3 ha. Archaeologists have unearthed two carriages designed to be driven by six horses, which have been identified as the 'tianzi liujia' or 'six steeds of the emperor' referred to in ancient texts discussing the vehicles used by the rulers of the state of Qin. The seals of court officials responsible for running errands on behalf of queens, queen mothers and princes, have also been found, according to Wang Hui, an historian from Shaanxi Normal University. Only after closer examination of the unearthed articles and comparisons with Qin mausoleums did archaeologists conclude that the tomb belonged to Qin Shihuang's grandmother, Queen Mother Xia.

According to Ding Yan, an associate researcher with the Shaanxi Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, the main tomb chamber for the Queen Mother is 140m long, 113m wide and 15m deep, with the tomb chamber covering an area of more than 100 sq m. The tomb was set in its own mortuary garden, known in Chinese as a 'garden of auspicious omens' or zhaoyuan, which was once surrounded by a moat. The available evidence suggests that the tomb was raided and burned several times, and only fragments of Qin coins, grey clay vases and red clay pots were unearthed, as well as shards of decorative and ritual jade objects, broken ceramic items and pieces of bronze. Some of the ceramic items are inscribed, among which is the two character inscription 'si guan', the name of an official post literally rendered as 'private official'.

Qin Shihuang's grandmother's inner and outer coffins were also burned. The Queen Mother, Empress Xia, lived until the 7th year of Qin Shihuang's reign, when he was 20 years of age. She is believed to have exerted considerable influence on the politics of the later years of the state of Qin and on Emperor Qin Shihuang in particular.


On 28 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency's Shijiazhuang Bureau reported the discovery in Hebei province of the remains of an ancient Buddhist temple and a pit containing a total of 324 pieces of both intact and fragmented Buddhist statuary dating from the period from the Northern Dynasties through to the Tang dynasty. Most of the figures were carved from stone, but some were made from ceramic. They were unearthed in Houdigecun village, Nangong city, under the auspices of the Hebei Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and include the remains of Buddha and Bodhisattva figures, apsaras and lotus thrones. The figures are described as carved with a high degree of artistry, featuring naturalistic lines and flowing garments. Many bear inscriptions, and, like the Qingzhou statues found in Shandong, the figures were painted. This discovery follows another similar find at a site covering 20,000 sq m in Xiaoguancun, a nearby village. This area was significant as the juncture between Shandong, Hebei and Henan. The latest discovery is significant as it provides further data for scholars examining the unique features of the superb Buddhist statuary found in this area.


The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences and the China Tibetology Research Centre have launched a joint two-year project to study and preserve a large group of Sanskrit scriptures brought to Tibet from India between the 7th and 13th centuries. The scriptures comprise 4,300 pages of text on pattra leaves in 426 volumes held in monasteries in Lhasa, Xigaze and Shannan. The pattra leaf inscriptions in Tibet are better preserved than contemporary materials that remained in Tibet because of the aridity of the Tibetan climate. According to Lhagba Puncog, secretary-general of the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing, only ten people in Tibet can read Sanskrit, but four Tibetan specialists have enrolled in Peking University to study Sanskrit and more language professionals will be trained later.


On 24 July 2006, the Hubei Provincial Archaeological Institute reported that it had begun to excavate the site of what was believed to be the royal city of the Prince of Luling, which dated from the Tang dynasty. Located in Fangxian county, Shiyan, Hubei province, the rectangular site was once surrounded by high walls and a moat. Stone building components and tile-ends (wadang), as well as Tang dynasty bronze mirrors have led to the tentative identification of the city as the former domicile of Li Xian, Emperor Zhongzong, the third son of Empress Wu Zetian, who was deposed by her after ruling for less than two months and exiled to live in this area for 14 years as the King of Luling. These fourteen years of what is called 'hibernation' in Chinese concluded when the empress summoned him to return to the capital and assume the throne as Emperor Zhongzong.


On 24 July 2006, Beijing Morning News reported that a group of 179 Ming dynasty tombs of eunuchs had been discovered at the construction site of the Olympics archery range in Xiangshan Nan Lu, in the Fragrant Hills district of Beijing in April this year. The excavation would continue until 8 August.

Work at this Olympic venue was temporarily halted when a tomb, later dubbed M4 by archaeologists, was discovered. M4 turned out to be the largest of the 179 tombs subsequently identified by the Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Institute. Tomb M4 was a subterranean structure described by the excavators as 'a microcosm of one of the nearby Ming imperial tombs'. However, it does not appear to have ever been occupied. The institute and local conservation authorities intend relocating the tomb to the Tianyi cemetery and constructing a replica for visitors at the discovery site.

Among the 179 graves, some Tang, Liao and Jin dynasty burials have been identified, but the great majority belong to the mid-Ming period, a dating established by the discovery of coins of the period. Nine jade belts decorated with dragon and phoenix motifs have been discovered at the site, one of which is made of 'crystal jade' (boli-yu), the first of its type ever found.


On 16 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported that Suzhou, regarded as the home of the 500-year old Kunqu drama form, is enacting legislation to protect the ancient art. The regulations will be the first of their kind drafted by a local government aiming to preserve an intangible cultural heritage item in China. The draft regulations are awaiting approval from the city's legislature and are expected to be enacted by the end of this year.

In 2001, Kunqu opera was listed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and in 2005 the Chinese government initiated a program to rescue and rejuvenate Kunqu, planning to allocate RMB10million (US$1.25 million) per annum to eight major Kunqu troupes between 2005 and 2009.

As well as expressing the intention of protecting the artistic aspects of Kunqu, Suzhou's new regulations also define the city government's responsibility to promote Kunqu in schools and universities, in order to cultivate a new generation of Kunqu audiences. Basic knowledge about the opera will be taught in elementary and secondary schools, while art schools and universities will open classes for young Kunqu fans. In addition, the government is obliged to develop a favourable environment for Kunqu's revival by setting up special funds, arranging performances, and hosting cultural exchange activities for the opera.


The 30th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC), meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, announced on 13 July 2006 that Yinxu, the ruins of the ancient Shang capital in Anyang, Henan, had been inscribed on the World Heritage List, bringing the total number of Chinese sites on the list to 33. The WHC unanimously agreed to place the ruins on the list without discussion, regarding the site as being of 'universal value', according to Zhang Xuezhong, ambassador and permanent delegate to UNESCO.

The discovery of oracle bone inscriptions at the Anyang site on the eve of the 20th century completely altered the prevailing picture of ancient Chinese history. Chinese cultural heritage officials attending the meeting in Vilnius took the opportunity to state that China would not renounce its claim to the 50,000 inscribed oracle bones that have been taken overseas in the past century and are now known to be in the hands of at least 80 museums, foundations, auction houses and individual collectors around the world. At least 10,000 inscribed oracle bones are in Japan alone. Since the United Nations has long written into international conventions the principle of returning cultural relics plundered in wars, China will not give up its rights to reclaim these items taken out of the country, said Li Peisong, a senior official with the State Bureau of Cultural Relics, but he added that the countries that benefited from war adopted an 'ambiguous' attitude.

Since 1928, when excavations at Yinxu began, some 150,000 oracle bones, 2,600 jade pieces and 6,000 bronzes have been unearthed. Since 1949, more than 20 excavations have been carried out at a dozen different areas of the extensive Yinxu site covering some 24 sq km. Some of the finds, such as bronze items unearthed in the 1970s from the tomb of the woman general Lady Fu Hao and the oracle bones found near Xiaotuncun village, are among China's major archaeological discoveries. Excavations at Yinxu have revealed tombs, palace and temple foundations along with bronze ware, jade carvings, lacquer, white carved ceramics, green-glazed china, and oracle bones. Li Peisong stated that no further excavations would be carried out at the Yinxu site unless there was a special reason for doing so, as it is now believed that remaining relics are best preserved intact underground.


On 11 July 2006, the cultural relics and archaeology department of Tongliao city in Inner Mongolia announced their retrieval of 'valuable material' from a neolithic site at Daolaodusumu in Jarud Banner. In June archaeologists were alerted to the existence of the site by local farmers who uncovered pottery fragments when clearing land. In the Jarud area there was an intermingling of the Hongshan and Fuhe archaeological cultures in the neolithic period approximately five thousand years ago. The most recent finds show that the site belonged to nomadic pastoral peoples, who eventually formed the ancient Donghu ethnic grouping.


Xinhua News Agency reported on 10 July 2006 the 'recent' discovery by archaeologists of the Inner Mongolia Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute of a tomb containing the remains of an official and his spouse of the Liao dynasty (906-1125), dating back more than 900 years, in today's Horinger county, 45 km south of the regional capital Hohhot. The tomb is described as the best preserved Liao tomb in southern central Inner Mongolia yet found.

The tomb chamber contained more than 20 sq m of frescoes, according to Chen Yongzhi, vice-director of the institute. These depicted vignettes from the tomb owners' lives as well as scenes of hunting and cattle herding. The frescoes also included representations of the twelve horary animals of the Chinese 'zodiac' system with human torsos. The pig and snake are shown in an embrace, and archaeologists conclude that this coupling indicates that the husband and wife were born respectively in those two years.

The tomb was located in the cemetery of an aristocratic clan, where 21 tombs (18 brick-chambered and three earthen-chambered) have been excavated to date by the institute's team led by Li Qiang, at the extensive ancient Tuchengzi (literally, 'Earth Walled Town') site, which was the capital of the Liao dynasty's Zhenwu county. The Liao dynasty, founded by the Khitan (Qidan) people, had a rich grasslands culture contemporary with that of the Song dynasty to the south. Many Liao dynasty tombs in Inner Mongolia have been revealed by surveys, but only ten percent of known tombs have been yet been properly excavated. Archaeologists conclude, on the basis of the dress of the figures in the frescoes, that the male tomb occupant was possibly the county chief (xianling). Archaeologists also unearthed what are described as valuable 'sacrificial offerings' in the tomb, including 18 items of fine vitreous brown ceramic ware and a miniature pagoda.

Tuchengzi is a major site with a national heritage protection listing. The area of Horinger county located at the southern foot of the Yinshan mountains which run from west to east across Inner Mongolia has long been strategically important. There has been a settlement here since the Warring States period (770-476 BCE) and in the Tang dynasty (618-907) the area was the site of a military garrison, 700 sq m of which were excavated by the institute in 1999. During that excavation a valuable Tang dynasty tricolour (sancai) ceramic camel was found but more importantly valuable evidence regarding the agriculture and economy of this Tang border military colony. Horinger county marked the northernmost part of the Tang, from which period valuable material was also excavated here in the 1950s and 1960s.


On 9 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported that the renovation of a 550 metre stretch of the imperial city wall at Di'anmen in the Xicheng district of Beijing was nearing completion. This wall was first constructed by the Yongle Emperor in 1420, but later rebuilt. The existing wall was built in the Qing dynasty, but was hidden by buildings in the Republican period.


On 7 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency's Wuhan office reported that a group of mound burials unearthed at Xiongjiazhong in Jingzhou, Hubei province, probably constitute the largest and tallest Chu culture tomb site excavated in China to date. The hill site where the tomb is being excavated is in Zhangyangcun village, Chuandianzhen town, in Jingzhou district. The site was first identified by archaeologists in 1981 and a provincial protection order was issued. Surveys of the site were conducted in 1979, 1995 and 2001, in the course of which archaeologists identified main and ancillary tomb tumuli, a carriage and horse burial pit, rows of human burial pits and a surrounding ditch. The main tomb tumulus is square in plan, and measures roughly 68 m along each side. The four rows of human burials each contain 14 graves, thus totalling 56 graves. The main tomb mound comprises 15 steps; the greater the number of steps then the higher was the social rank of the tomb occupant. Archaeologists of the Hubei Provincial Archaeology Institute therefore regard the tomb as possibly belonging to a Chu king.

Other Chu tombs in Hubei excavated this year – at Xiangyang and Yueyang – are providing archaeologists with an overall view of the sequence of development of Chu culture in Hubei in both the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods.


More than 70 years ago a group of rock carvings that includes the images of a male and a female figure were discovered at Yagou Cliff in Acheng, Heilongjiang province. The nature of these images has remained a mystery since their discovery in 1937, but a scholar of the history of the ancient Khitan and Jurchen ethnic groups of north-eastern China, Guo Changhai, has presented a new interpretation of these illustrations, according to a report in the 4 July 2006 issue of Harbin's Xin wanbao (New evening news). Guo maintains that the male figure represents one of the founding fathers of the Jin dynasty of the Jurchen people - Wanyan Aguda, Emperor Taizu of the Jin dynasty, and the female figure is a portrait of Emperor Jin Shizong's grandmother, the Xuanxian Empress, Lady Pusan. Guo states that the carved image shows Aguda holding regalia suggesting he is overseeing the founding ceremony of the Jin dynasty. Guo Changhai asserts that the images were carved in 1185. From the top of the cliff at the site of the carvings, the Jin dynasty's Upper Capital (Shangjing) could be seen.


On 3 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported that over the previous month archaeologists of the Inner Mongolia Archaeology Institute and the Baotou Municipal Cultural Relics Management Office had recovered more than 1,000 porcelain shards in the course of their excavation of a site dating to the Yuan dynasty in Yanjialiang within the jurisdiction of the city of Baotou which began at the end of May. The site had been discovered in the 1950s, and the brief Xinhua report did not specify why the current excavation was described as a 'salvage' operation.

In addition to porcelain samples from five major ancient kilns (Jingdezhen, Cizhou, Jun, Ding and Longquan) of the period, archaeologists also found the remains of twelve houses, rare finds regarded as significant for studying the layout of villages in the Yuan dynasty.


On 3 July 2006, Xinhua News Agency reported the preliminary results of the excavation of a site covering 600 sq m at a Tang dynasty kiln complex, discovered at Huangjinpu in Yugan county, Jiangxi province, in the course of construction of a new motorway. More than 3,000 shards and items of kiln 'furniture' were found at the large kiln complex. The first examples of ceramic waist drums, called paigu in Chinese, found in Jiangxi are regarded by archaeologists as evidence that the kiln was engaged in producing items for trade with Central and Western Asia, where such drums were highly prized musical instruments. A celadon jar with a reign mark of the Zhenguan period (785-805) was discovered at the site.