China says it now has physical evidence to back its claim that Chinese civilisation extends back 5000 years.
China for years has been teaching in its schools that it has 5000 years of uninterrupted cultural history. Western historians have expressed doubts about the length of Chinese civilisation — they say hard proof of the first two thousand years was missing.
On Monday, China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage held a press conference to announce that it had physical proof to suggest that Chinese civilisation extends back 5,000 years.
“The project has proved with physical evidence that Chinese civilisation exhibited a multifaceted unity,” said Guan Qiang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. “It was inclusive, and its succession has never stopped,” said Qiang.
China claims it is the world’s oldest unbroken civilisation, and uses this claim to instill national pride and patriotism. The archaeological project was launched in 2004 by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2004.
At least 70 research institutions and universities participated in the programme.
“We have done large archaeological investigations in several key, capital city-level sites from 5,500 to 3,500 years ago,” said Wang Wei, a leader of the program from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said.
The findings say that at Liangzhu Site in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, which dates from 5,300 to 4,500 years ago, archaeologists unearthed a huge dam 3.5 kilometres long and over 10 metres thick. Ruins of the city cover 3 million square metres, and the city’s walls are 40 to 60 metres thick. The study states that the entire city would have taken 10,000 people a decade or longer to build.
“It hardly would have been possible for a tribe or a league of tribes to mobilise so many people,” Wang said. “This indicates a time of early-stage states with wide influence,” Wang said.
Division of labour, hierarchical social classes and inequality in wealth were also observed when studying the Taosi Site (from 4,300 to 4,100 years ago) in Xiangfen county, Shanxi province, and several other key sites of “huge city ruins”, he said.
The relics are from what is believed to have been the capital of Emperor Yao, a legendary ancient ruler.