China in the News ...

The 'Chinese Pyramids' and the pole star   PhysOrg - November 30, 2018
The funerary complex of the first Chinese emperor of the Qin dynasty (3 BC) is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. This is, of course, due to the discovery of the terracotta statue army, intended to accompany the emperor in the afterlife.

Less well known is the fact that the tomb proper (still not excavated) lies beneath a gigantic, artificial hill of rammed earth. This hill has a square shape, a base side of more than 350 meters and is over 40 meters high, and can easily be called a pyramid. Notably, all the emperors of the subsequent dynasty, the Western Han, chose to be buried under similar pyramids. These mausoleums are still visible today within the northwestern surroundings of Xian along the Wei River. Including the tombs of the queens and other members of royal families, there are over 40 such "Chinese pyramids." Of these, only two have been (partly) excavated. The new study is part of an extensive program of research on the role of astronomy and of the traditional doctrine of feng shui in the Chinese imperial necropolises.

The new study is part of an extensive program of research on the role of astronomy and of the traditional doctrine of feng shui in the Chinese imperial necropolises, and has just been published in Archaeological Research in Asia. The work used simple techniques based on satellite images, together with field surveys to collect new data and, in particular, to study the orientation of the pyramid bases. The Egyptian pyramids are oriented with great precision to the cardinal points by virtue of the strong bonds of the funerary religion of the Egyptian pharaohs with the sky, and in particular with the circumpolar stars.

Although there is no connection with the Egyptian pyramids, the Chinese emperors credited their power as a direct mandate of the heaven, identifying the circumpolar region as a celestial image of the imperial palace and its inhabitants. It was therefore natural to expect the Chinese pyramids, tombs of the emperors, to be oriented to the cardinal points. In this connection, the results of the new study are surprising.

It turns out that these monuments can be classified according to two "families." One such family comprises monuments oriented with good precision to the cardinal points, as expected. In the other family, there are significant deviations from the true north, all of comparable and all on the same "hand " (to the west of the north, looking toward the monument).

It is not possible that this second family resulted from errors of Chinese astronomers and architects. Rudimentary compasses existed at that time, but there is no correspondence with paleomagnetic data. The explanation proposed in the article is thus astronomical: The emperors who built the pyramids of the second family did not want to point to the north celestial pole, which at the time did not correspond to any star, but instead to the star to which the pole would approach in the future: Polaris.

All this discourse may look strange at first sight, but the Earth's axis slowly shifts position in the sky. The Chinese astronomers were almost certainly aware of this. Today, the north celestial pole is identified with Polaris (although in reality the correspondence is not perfect), but at the time of the Han emperors, the pole was still far from Polaris, and with a distance in degrees approximately equal to the deviation of the Chinese pyramids from the geographic north.

Earliest example of large hydraulic enterprise excavated in China   PhysOrg - December 5, 2017
A team of researchers from several institutions in China has uncovered one of the largest water management projects in the ancient world in what is now a part of the eastern coast of modern China. Over 5000 years ago, people living in the Yangtze River Delta apparently grew weary of the flooding that periodically destroyed their crops. They embarked on what became one of the largest water management projects in the ancient world, moving earth and piling it in desired ways to change over 10,000 hectares of landscape to suit their needs. The researchers at the site have been working for four years uncovering the large hydraulic system that was built to support Liangzhu Ancient City.

The researchers report that laborers spent years digging up dirt to make canals, piled it to make dams, and even installed a system of gates to control movement of the water. The result was a system able to prevent normal flooding and to irrigate crops during dry times with rainwater saved in large reservoirs. They also dug canals to allow small boats to carry people and materials around the area. The researchers estimate that it took approximately 3000 people working for eight years just to build one of the larger dams, and in the process, they moved approximately 10 million cubic feet of earth.

Discovery: Ancient Chinese funeral procession entombed for 2,400 years: Remains of more than 100 horses and four chariots found in a burial tomb honoring feudal lord and his wife   Daily Mail - November 7, 2017
A 2,400-year-old pit containing the remains of horses and chariots believed to belong to a member of an ancient royal household has been uncovered in China. The pit is one of a cluster of tombs thought to hold the remains of noble families of the Zheng State, who ruled the region intermittently between 770 and 221 BC. Excavation of the surrounding land has already found 18 large pits containing horses and chariots and more than 3,000 tombs.

In Photos: 700-Year-Old Shipwreck Discovered in China   Live Science - October 24, 2017
A shipwreck dating back around 700 years, to a time that the Mongols controlled China, has been discovered at a construction site in Heze City, China. Many artifacts and works of art, including this jar decorated with a dragon and phoenix design, were found inside.

Ancient Bling: Exquisite Jewelry Found in Tomb of Chinese Woman   Live Science - August 17, 2016
Around 1,500 years ago, at a time when China was divided, a woman named Farong was laid to rest wearing fantastic jewelry, which included a necklace of 5,000 beads and "exquisite" earrings, archaeologists report. Her tomb was discovered in 2011 in Datong City, China, by a team of archaeologists with the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology who were surveying the area before a construction project. The researchers excavated the tomb, conserved the artifacts and reconstructed the necklace. Farong's tomb was dug into the ground, and her skeleton (which is now in poor condition) was found lying in a coffin archaeologists said.

3,000-year-old Chinese oracle bones go 3-D   PhysOrg - March 22, 2016
The earliest-known example of Chinese writing - written more than 3,000 years ago on the bones of an ox – has become the world's first Chinese oracle bone to be scanned and printed in 3D. Cambridge University Library, which is celebrating its 600th anniversary this year, holds 614 Chinese inscribed oracle bones in its collection. They are the oldest extant documents written in the Chinese language, dating from 1339-1112 BCE. Inscribed on ox shoulder blades and the flat under-part of turtle shells, they record questions to which answers were sought by divination at the court of the royal house of Shang, which ruled north central China at that time. The inscriptions on the bones provide much insight into many aspects of early Chinese society, such as warfare, agriculture, hunting, medical problems, meteorology and astronomy.

More than One Hundred Ancient Hanging Coffins Discovered in China   Ancient Origins - December 16, 2015
A cluster of 113 hanging coffins dating back 1,200 years have been discovered on cliff-faces and in caves in Zigui county, Hubei province, close to the site of the Three Gorges Dam in China. The finding constitutes one of the largest sets of cliff burials that have been found in China so far. Most of the wooden coffins were found packed into man-made caves known as "Caves of the Fairies (Immortals)", located about 100 meters up the side of a cliff near the village of Yanglinqiao. Other coffins were wedged between rocks in the cliff-face.

Eat a paleo peach - first fossil peaches discovered in southwest China   PhysOrg - December 1, 2015
The sweet, juicy peaches we love today might have been a popular snack long before modern humans arrived on the scene. Scientists have found eight well-preserved fossilized peach endocarps, or pits, in southwest China dating back more than two and a half million years. Despite their age, the fossils appear nearly identical to modern peach pits.

A Loyal Companion and Much More: Dogs in Ancient China   Ancient Origins - November 27, 2015
It is generally accepted that the dog is one of the earliest animals that was domesticated by human beings. In today's society, the dog is regarded by many as 'man's best friend'. This view has been shared by many ancient societies as well, including the ancient Chinese. In ancient Chinese society, the dog played a number of important roles, not only in the everyday life of the ancient Chinese, but also in their mythology.

Goujian: The Ancient Chinese Sword That Defied Time   Epoch Times - August 6, 2015
Fifty years ago, a rare and unusual sword was found in a tomb in China. Despite being well over 2,000 years old, the sword, known as the Goujian, did not have a single trace of rust. The blade drew blood when an archaeologist tested its edge with his finger. It was seemingly unaffected by the passage of time. Besides this strange quality, the craftsmanship was highly detailed for a sword made such a long time ago. Regarded as a state treasure in China today, the sword is as legendary to the Chinese people as King Arthur’s Excalibur in the West.

Mystery of Ancient Chinese Civilization's Disappearance Explained   Live Science - December 24, 2014
An earthquake nearly 3,000 years ago may be the culprit in the mysterious disappearance of one of China's ancient civilizations, new research suggests. The massive temblor may have caused catastrophic landslides, damming up the Sanxingdui culture's main water source and diverting it to a new location. That, in turn, may have spurred the ancient Chinese culture to move closer to the new river flow. In 1929, a peasant in Sichuan province uncovered jade and stone artifacts while repairing a sewage ditch located about 24 miles (40 kilometers) from Chengdu. But their significance wasn't understood until 1986, when archaeologists unearthed two pits of Bronze Age treasures, such as jades, about 100 elephant tusks and stunning 8-feet-high (2.4 meters) bronze sculptures that suggest an impressive technical ability that was present nowhere else in the world at the time.

Ornate Clothing from the Ming Dynasty Unearthed in China   Live Science - December 9, 2014
On the coast of the East China Sea, near the modern Taizhou City, archaeologists have unearthed an unusual find: A husband-and-wife tomb dating to the Ming Dynasty that contains extraordinarily well-preserved clothing, decorated with elaborate designs. Gowns belonging to both the husband and wife covered in highly intricate patterns - including lotus flowers, banana leaves, coins and chime stones - were unearthed when the 500-year-old tomb was excavated, the researchers reported. The findings demonstrate that China was a prosperous place during the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644, experts said.

Opulent Clothing Unearthed in Ming Dynasty Tomb   Live Science - December 8, 2014
Archaeologists in China have unearthed a husband-and-wife tomb dating to the Ming Dynasty that contains extraordinarily well-preserved clothing decorated with elaborate designs. The 500-year-old tomb contained a wooden coffin for the husband and another for his wife. The two coffins lay side by side within an outer coffin, which in turn was covered by a layer of slurry (a mix of lime and sticky rice soup). Although archaeologists found only a few bones in the coffins, the clothing was finely preserved. The woman's coffin had a banner saying that she was "Lady Xu, deceased mother of the Wang family of the Ming Dynasty." Her coffin contains an undershirt with patches that show a detailed image of a Kylin, a mythical creature with the head of a dragon, a scaly body and bushy tale. The Kylin is shown amidst clouds, rocks and sea water.

Geologists discover ancient buried canyon in South Tibet   Science Daily - November 20, 2014
Scientists have discovered an ancient, deep canyon buried along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in south Tibet, north of the eastern end of the Himalayas. The geologists say that the ancient canyon -- thousands of feet deep in places -- effectively rules out a popular model used to explain how the massive and picturesque gorges of the Himalayas became so steep, so fast.

1,000-Year-Old Tomb Reveals Murals, Stars & Poetry   Live Science - November 11, 2014
A 1,000-year-old tomb with a ceiling decorated with stars and constellations has been discovered in northern China. Found not far from a modern day railway station, the circular tomb has no human remains but instead has murals which show vivid scenes of life. "The tomb murals mainly depict the daily domestic life of the tomb occupant," and his travels with horses and camels, a team of researchers wrote in their report on the tomb recently published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. On the east wall, people who may have served as attendants to the tomb's occupant are shown holding fruit and drinks. There is also a reclining deer, a crane, bamboo trees, a crawling yellow turtle and a poem. The poem reads in part, "Time tells that bamboo can endure cold weather. Live as long as the spirits of the crane and turtle."

The Last Hieroglyphic Language on Earth and an Ancient Culture Fighting to Survive   Epoch Times - October 22, 2014
The Dongba symbols are an ancient system of pictographic glyphs created by the founder of the Bon religious tradition of Tibet and used by the Naxi people in southern China. Historical records show that this unique script was used as early as the 7th century, during the early Tang Dynasty, however, research conducted last year showed that its origins may date back as far as 7,000 years ago. Incredibly, the Dongba symbols continue to be used by the elders of the Naxi people, making it the only hieroglyphic language still used in the world today. The Naxi people lived in the beautiful mountain province of Yunnan (south of the clouds) for thousands of years, where they developed their own rich and enduring culture. Today, most of the 270,000 Naxi people live in the county of Lijiang where they retain many of their ancient traditions.

Naxi language   Wikipedia

Naxi People   Wikipedia

More Than 100 Han Dynasty Tombs Discovered in China   The Epoch Times - June 17, 2014
Chinese archaeologists have discovered more than one hundred tombs from the Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) in Jiangsu province, Eastern China. Such a large cluster of Han tombs are a rare discovery and valuable for studies on funeral customs of the time.

3000 year old trousers discovered in Chinese grave oldest ever found   PhysOrg - June 3, 2014
A team of researchers working in the ancient Yanghai graveyard in China's Tarim Basin has uncovered what appears to be the earliest example of trouser wearing. The Tarim Basin in western China is host to the famous Yanghai tombs, a large ancient burial ground that dates back thousands of years - thus far over 500 individual gravesites have been excavated. In this latest find, two adult males (believed to be herders and warriors) both approximately 40 years old at the time of death, were wearing trousers. Carbon dating put the age of the material at approximately 3000 years ago, making the find the oldest known instance of trouser wearing.

Oldest ionoscopiform fish found from the Middle Triassic of South China   PhysOrg - June 3, 2014
Ionoscopiform fishes have been known only from the Late Jurassic of Europe and the Early Cretaceous of the New World, although potential ionoscopiforms based on poorly preserved specimens, questionably assigned in the genus Ophiopsis, have been reported from the Middle Triassic (Ladinian) of Italy and Austria. The Ionoscopiformes are extinct marine halecomorphs, and the Halecomorphi are a major subdivision of the ray-finned fishes. Although living halecomorphs are represented solely by the freshwater bowfin, Amia calva, this clade has a rich fossil history, and the resolution of interrelationships among extinct members is central to the problem of understanding the origin of the Teleostei, the largest clade of extant vertebrates.

Donated Chinese bamboo strips turn out to be ancient multiplication table   PhysOrg - January 9, 2014
Researchers at Tsinghua University in China are reporting that a subset of bamboo strips donated to the university five years ago has been found to make up an ancient Chinese multiplication table. Dated back to 2,300 years ago (circa 305 B.C.), the table represents the oldest-known such device that computes in base 10 - ancient Babylonian tables dating back 4000 years were base 60. The bamboo strips were part of a much larger collection of very old and partially decomposed bamboo strips, all of which had writing on the back.

China finds ancient tomb of 'female prime minister'   BBC - September 12, 2013
The ancient tomb of a female politician in China, described as the country's "female prime minister", has been discovered, Chinese media say. The tomb of Shangguan Wan'er, who lived from 664-710 AD, was recently found in Shaanxi province. Archaeologists confirmed the tomb was hers this week. She was a famous politician and poet who served empress Wu Zetian, China's first female ruler. However, the tomb was badly damaged, reports said. The grave was discovered near an airport in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, reports said. A badly damaged epitaph on the tomb helped archaeologists confirm that the tomb was Shangguan Wan'er's, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Experts described the discovery as one of "major significance", even though it had been subject to "large-scale damage".

Early Humans Lived in China 1.7 Million Years Ago   Live Science - August 15, 2013
An extinct species of tool-making humans apparently occupied a vast area in China as early as 1.7 million years ago, researchers say. The human lineage evolved in Africa, with now-extinct species of humans dispersing away from their origin continent more than a million years before modern humans did. Scientists would like to learn more about when and where humans went to better understand what drove human evolution. Researchers investigated the Nihewan Basin, which lies in a mountainous region about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Beijing. It holds more than 60 sites from the Stone Age, with thousands of stone tools found there since 1972 - relatively simple types, such as stone flakes altogether known as the Oldowan. Researchers suspect these artifacts belonged to Homo erectus, thought to be ancestral to Homo sapiens.

Inscriptions found in Shanghai pre-date 'oldest Chinese language by 1,400 years'   The Guardian - July 10, 2013
Markings on artifacts from Zhuangqiao relics site date to 5,000 years ago and include string of words, says archaeologist. A stone axe from near the Zhuangqiao relics site, in east China, shows a newly discovered form of primitive writing, archaeologists say. Primitive inscriptions dating back about 5,000 years - and believed to be 1,400 years older than the most ancient written Chinese language - have been discovered in Shanghai, archaeologists report. Chinese scholars are divided over whether the markings, found on artIfacts at the Zhuangqiao relics site south of the modern city, are words or something simpler. But they believe the discovery will shed light on the origins of Chinese language and culture. The oldest writing in the world is believed to be from Mesopotamia (now Iraq), dating back slightly more than 5,000 years. Chinese characters are believed to have been developed independently. The Chinese inscriptions were found on more than 200 pieces dug out from the neolithic Liangzhu relics site. The pieces are among thousands of fragments of ceramic, stone, jade, wood, ivory and bone excavated from the site between 2003 and 2006, Xu Xinmin, the lead archaeologist, said.

Ancient Tomb of Murals Discovered in China   Live Science - June 17, 2013
A colorful, well-preserved "mural tomb," where a military commander and his wife were likely buried nearly 1,500 years ago, has been uncovered in China. The domed tomb's murals, whose original colors are largely preserved, was discovered in Shuozhou City, about 200 miles (330 kilometers) southwest of Beijing. Researchers estimate that the murals cover an area of about 860 square feet (80 square meters), almost the same area as a modern-day bowling lane. Most of the grave's goods have been looted, and the bodies are gone, but the murals, drawn on plaster, are still there. In a passageway leading into the tomb, a door guard leans on his long sword watching warily. Across from him, also in the passageway, is a guard of honor, supported by men on horses, their red-and-blue uniforms still vivid despite the passing of so many centuries.

Pictures: 3,000 Ancient Buddhas Unearthed in China   National Geographic - April 19, 2012
The head of a Buddha statue peeks above the dirt in Handan (map), China, where archaeologists have reportedly unearthed nearly 3,000 Buddha statues, which could be up to 1,500 years old. The discovery is believed to be the largest of its kind since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, an archaeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told reporters in late March, according to the Associated Press. The Buddha statues - most of which are made of white marble and limestone and many of which are broken—could date back to the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi dynasties (A.D. 534 to 577), experts say.

2,700 Year Old Human Sacrifices Found at Ancient China Complex   National Geographic - June 16, 2010
Sacrificial remains of humans and animals, believed to be at least 2,700 years old, have been found in central China's Luoyang city (map), Chinese archaeologists say. The bones are part of a recently discovered burial complex covering nearly a quarter acre (945 square meters) and containing 14 tombs, a water channel, and 59 pits from the Western Zhou dynasty. (Related: "Ancient Mass Sacrifice, Riches Discovered in China Tomb.") During the Western Zhou period (1100 B.C. to 771 B.C.), the sacrifices of animals - and sometimes humans - to ancestors or deities were a routine part of Chinese culture. The sacrifices were often made to bless houses, said David Sena, a China historian at the University of Texas at Austin.

Archaeologists Amend Written History of China's First Emperor   Science Daily - March 8, 2010
The exploits of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, are richly documented in 2,000-year-old records of his conquests across eastern China. His reign was indeed noteworthy -- he is responsible for initiating construction of the Great Wall, and the discovery of life-size terracotta soldiers that guard his tomb in central China has generated worldwide attention.

Strange Phenomena in a Meteorite Crater   Epoch Times - January 6, 2010
Strange phenomena have been happening in Gulong Village, a round pit with a diameter of 1.8 kilometers, since ancient times. It is found that they are due to a meteorite strike in the area. According to Chinese Science Bulletin, when Gulong villagers get water from wells, there is always a layer of oil on top of the water. In addition, after the black soil from this village is dried, it can burn in fire.

'Oldest pottery' possibly known to science found in China   BBC - June 1, 2009
Examples of pottery found in a cave at Yuchanyan in China's Hunan province may be the oldest known to science. By determining the fraction of a type, or isotope, of carbon in bone fragments and charcoal, the specimens were found to be 17,500 to 18,300 years old. The authors say that the ages are more precise than previous efforts because a series of more than 40 radiocarbon-dated samples support the estimate. The work is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Yuchanyan cave was the site where the oldest kernels of rice were found in 2005, and it is viewed as an important link between cave-dwelling hunter-gatherer peoples and the farmers that arose later in the basin of the nearby Yangtze River.

Great Wall of China 'even longer'   BBC - April 20, 2009
The Great Wall of China is even greater than previously thought, according to the first detailed survey to establish the length of the ancient barricade. A two-year government mapping study found that the wall spans 8,850km (5,500 miles) - until now, the length was commonly put at about 5,000km. Previous estimates of its length were mainly based on historical records. Infra-red and GPS technologies helped locate some areas concealed over time by sandstorms, state media said. The project found that there were wall sections of 6,259km, 359km of trenches, and 2,232km of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. The study was carried out by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping.

Chinese Kingdoms Rose, Fell with Monsoons National Geographic - November 6, 2008
Throughout centuries, the fortunes of China's ancient kingdoms rose and fell with monsoon cycles, a new study suggests. The discovery is based on a nearly 2,000-year-old record of monsoon activity recently discovered in a cave.

How Qin Shi Huang Changed the World Live Science - March 10, 2008
Qin Shi Huang unified China, built the Great Wall and there's that enormous army of terra-cotta warriors that watches over his mysterious mausoleum...

Ancestral Human Skull Found in China National Geographic - February 22, 2008
A human skull tentatively dating back 80,000 to 100,000 years may shed light on a murky chapter of evolutionary history, its discoverers say.

European Man Found in Ancient Chinese Tomb, Study Reveals National Geographic - May 26, 2007

Ancient human unearthed in China Cave BBC - April 3, 2007
The remains of one of the earliest modern humans to inhabit eastern Asia have been unearthed in a cave in China. The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonized the East, a movement that is only poorly understood by anthropologists. Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing. Details of the discovery appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago.

Ancient pollen could lead scientists to the kilns where the figures in China's terracotta army were made 2,200 years ago BBC - March 26, 2007
Ancient pollen could lead scientists to the kilns where the figures in China's terracotta army were made. The 2,200-year-old clay army of 8,000 soldiers, 300 horses and 200 chariots guards the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China. Soils from different regions contain distinct pollen "signatures", reflecting variations in vegetation. This could help solve the mystery of where the clay figures were made, says the Journal of Archaeological Science. Hu Ya-Qin from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and colleagues crushed fragments of terracotta from a horse and a soldier, digested the ground-up bits of clay with acid and spun the mix to separate out the different components. The team looked at the resulting residues under a microscope and identified 32 types of pollen.

Chinese made first use of diamond BBC - May 17, 2005
Stone age craftsmen in China were polishing objects using diamond 2,000 years before anyone else had the same idea, new evidence suggests. Quartz was previously thought to be the abrasive used to polish ceremonial axes in late stone age, or neolithic, China. But the investigations of a Chinese-US team of scientists indicate that quartz alone would not have been able to achieve such lustrous finishes.

China had first complex machines BBC - June 2004
Spiral ring reveals ancient complex machines. Carved decorations on jades from ancient China are generally thought to have been made by hand, or with simple machines that worked with a single movement.

'Earliest writing' found in China BBC - April 2003
Signs carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells found in China may be the earliest written words, say archaeologists. The symbols were laid down in the late Stone Age, or Neolithic Age. They predate the earliest recorded writings from Mesopotamia - in what is now Iraq - by more than 2,000 years. The archaeologists say they bear similarities to written characters used thousands of years later during the Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1700-1100 BC. But the discovery has already generated controversy, with one leading researcher in the field branding it "an anomaly". The archaeologists have identified 11 separate symbols inscribed on the tortoise shells.

Earliest salamanders discovered BBC - April 2003
> Specimens up to 165 million years old - in fossil beds in Mongolia and China. Scientists say they have found literally thousands of the animals preserved in volcanic ash. The researchers describe one juvenile in particular that reveals the amphibian's eye, folds in its tail and a stomach bulging with clam shrimps. The discoveries are part of an ongoing excavation programme being conducted by staff from the University of Chicago, US, and Peking University in Beijing, China. Before these extraordinary finds, the oldest known salamander fossils dated back only to the Tertiary Sub-Era, which began 65 million years ago.