n July 6, UNESCO added the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City to the World Heritage List, the 55th Chinese site to be listed.
The site, in Zhejiang Province, is in the lower Yangtze River Basin on the south-eastern coast, and dates from 3300-2300 BCE, during the late Neolithic Period. It was an early regional state with a unified belief system based on rice cultivation, said UNESCO. “These ruins are an outstanding example of early urban civilization expressed in earthen monuments, urban planning, a water conservation system and a social hierarchy expressed in differentiated burials in cemeteries within the property,” it said.
The ancient site of Liangzhu was discovered in 1936, and is the most ancient state so far discovered on Chinese territory. The ruins, discovered in 2007, were the core of the Liangzhu civilization. It is formed by a palace, inner city, outer city and a complicated outer hydrosystem which once enclosed a 13-square kilometer reservoir capable of storing 60 million cubic meters of water. The whole preservation zone covers 42 square kilometers.
A highlight of the ruins is that they include a high-end grave area plus a sacrificial altar to offer sacrifices to gods and ancestors and to observe astronomical phenomena. Chinese archaeologists have excavated around 1,200 pieces or sets of cultural relics from the grave area, 90 percent of which were exquisite jadeware.
At an exhibition on the Liangzhu civilization held at The Palace Museum in Beijing, experts told the Xinhua News Agency that the rulers and nobles of the civilization used jadeware to identify themselves and distinguish them from ordinary people. Notably, a beast-face pattern was found to be carved on jade and utensils, which experts believe was a spiritual icon of the Liangzhu people. It provides strong evidence that Liangzhu made the leap from a late Neolithic society to a more complex one which had a hierarchical system, a ceremonial system and had developed mature jade-carving techniques. Liangzhu culture is evidence that civilization developed on Chinese territory earlier than was previously thought.