Western Zhou Graveyard at Qishan

Greatest archeological discovery since new China

June 07, 2004

Of the archeological activities on Western Zhou over the past 70 years, Qishan graveyards may be the only large relics of Zhou population ever found. From the burial sites the walls, oracles and advanced buildings and graves are discovered and the oracles reading "Duke of Zhou (Zhou Gong)" appeared many times there.

After a number of on-site investigations, researches and discussions carried out by many famous archeologists the Western Zhou large burial site has received wide attention and was regarded as belonging quite likely to the family of the Duke of Zhou. This greatest archeological discovery as such ever since the founding of new China proves immeasurably precious to the research on China's civilization and for carrying on and developing China's excellent traditional culture.

The large Western Zhou burial site is located in the ruins of the Duke Zhou Temple in Qishan County of Shaanxi Province. Archeological team composed of Shaanxi Archeology Institute and Peking University, has discovered 19 large graves: nine with four grave tunnels, four with three and two respectively and two with one grave tunnel. There are another 13 funerary pits. Over 700 oracle bone pieces were discovered outside the graves, 420 word oracle identified, four slates with characters reading "Duke of Zhou" ever found, over 1500-meter-long wall and sites of foundations of six large buildings of rammed earth.

After three days of careful investigation Professor Zou Heng from Peking University said, it is the only large community of Zhou people, in which the Western Zhou walls, oracles, advanced buildings were all discovered ever since the archeological activities on the Western Zhou Dynasty were started over 70 years ago. That referring to the Duke of Zhou appeared many times on oracle bones indicates that the site is the feud of Duke Zhou and the burial site belongs to his family. The 78-year-old Zou, dubbed "No.1 archeologist on China's Shang and Zhou dynasties", is the discoverer of the capital ruins of the States of Yan and Jin of the Western Zhou Dynasty and instructor for exploring and excavating Lord Jin's grave of the Western Zhou Dynasty.

Yin Shengping, former curator of Shaanxi History Museum, a noted expert in Western Zhou history, said, king-level graves discovered previously only had one or two tunnels, and it is the first time for us to discover four-grave-tunnel graves in the feud of the Duke Zhou. Duke Zhou was a person honored as King of Zhou and is fully qualified to use the funeral treatment of the highest level. It is no wonder that graves with four tunnels were discovered in his family burial site.

Named Dan and surnamed Ji, Duke Zhou is the founder of Zhou Dynasty, and once assisted King Zhou Wu and afterwards serving as regent for seven years, he gave the power back to King Zhou Cheng. He initiated feudalistic system, and formulated the rites and composed music, thus laid the political and cultural foundation of the Chinese nation. Confucius turned his thought more humanized and worldly, and on the basis he formed the Confucianism which has been passed on for thousands of years, becoming the most fundamental cultural tradition in Chinese society. "Dreaming of Duke Zhou" still remains a catchword nowadays.

Doctor Zhang Tian'en, director of Shang and Zhou Office of Shaanxi Archeology Institute who devoted for years to seeking tombs for kings of the Western Zhou, held that the title of Duke Zhou is hereditary and lasted for five to six hundred years. Although Zhou Gongdan's eldest son was given the State of Lu in the east but Western Zhou practiced the system of returned burial, i.e. one must be buried in the mother town when he died. As descendents of Duke Zhou given provincial enfeoffment must also be buried in the family graveyards, therefore, many graves appeared with four tomb-tunnels.

Researcher Yuan Zhongyi, former curator of Qinshihuang Terracotta and Horses Museum, said, the size of the four-tunnel graves are generally a bit small, so they are not likely to be of the graves for kings but more likely to be graves of the family of Duke Zhou. As to whom they actually belong, that depends on the final determination after excavation.

By People's Daily Online

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