Cluster of magnificent buildings over 2,500 years old found in Zhejiang

Updated: Mar 6, 2024 China Daily Global Print
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An aerial view of the base of Tingshan Site [Photo/Official WeChat account of Shaoxing Ancient City]

HANGZHOU — Chinese archaeologists have released details of a cluster of ruins in East China's Zhejiang province, believed to be buildings related to the ancient capital of the Yue state, which preceded the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC).

The experts have been conducting excavations at 10 large-scale sites in Shaoxing city of Zhejiang since 2020, unearthing the remains of large buildings and various ancient artifacts of great significance for future research.

The cluster covers a total area of around seven square kilometers, and includes the three main sites of Tingshan, Nanshan and Nanshantou. They are located close to the mausoleum of Yu, a legendary ruler who was believed to establish the Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC).

Among the most significant finds was a 180-centimeter-thick layer of building remains located at the top of Tingshan Mountain, at the core of the cluster, according to Xu Xinmin, researcher from the provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology, who is in charge of the overall excavation project.

Some ruins of what appears to be a quay, and pits for ritual ceremonies containing the remains of sacrificial offerings, were also found at the Tingshan Site, says Xu.

In the southern part of the Tingshan Site, the foundation of a massive building was unearthed, with delicate lacquer decorations painted on the remains of the pillars. Xu explains the building is believed to have been a high-grade public ritual space.

Meanwhile, some platform-like foundations were unearthed at the Nanshan Site, containing abundant pottery, primitive porcelain, metal artifacts, bamboo and wooden items, as well as animal and plant remains.

Notably, multiple items of bronzeware, including a spear and a dagger-axe, both with character inscriptions indicating royalty, as well as seven swords, were also discovered at the Nanshan Site.

The bones of cattle, pigs, deer and freshwater fish were also found at the site. Surprisingly, rare bones of horses from the Yue state and tuna bones, which can only be found in the deep sea, were among the remains. The remains of crops, vegetables and fruits have also been found, according to Xu.

At the Nanshantou Site, researchers found a huge tile, 48 cm in length and 36 cm in width. The tile illustrates the magnificent scale of the building at the site, Xu adds.

Based on the new findings, the researchers have come to a preliminary conclusion that the main three sites — namely Tingshan, Nanshantou and Nanshan — are interlinked to form a functional area for the core region of the Yue state, and may have belonged to its capital.

Known collectively as the Tingshan complex, the sites are expected to reveal the social organization structure, a subsistence economy, transportation, trade and other social conditions before and after the establishment of Yue state, taking into account the swampy environment at that time, with mountains facing the sea and rivers crisscrossing its territory, according to Xu.

Luo Rupeng, a researcher with the same institute as Xu, says the discovery of the Tingshan complex is very important for the archaeological study of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 16th century-256 BC) in Zhejiang.

Local archaeological research authorities, including the Zhejiang provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology, have been conducting excavation work at the sites since 2020, with an accumulative excavation area of more than 20,000 sq m so far.

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