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The Silk Road – Bronze

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 3, 2013

Excavation of both residential areas and burials forms our understanding of the culture and demonstrates its importance. Burial offerings of the Qijia culture include excellent examples of carefully made ceramics and personal ornaments. The excavated materials form the basis for the identification of the Qijia culture and for understanding the relationships between Qijia culture and other cultures. The arrangements of burials and associated features tell us a great deal about religious beliefs. Little archaeological research has been done with respect to settlements, so burials provide our best information about social and political life.

Archeologically, Mycenaean chariots, spearheads, daggers and other bronze objects show striking similarities with the Seima-Turbino culture (c. 1900-1600 BCE), of the northern Russian forest-steppes, known for the great mobility of its nomadic warriors (Seima-Turbino sites were found as far away as Mongolia). It is therefore likely that the Mycenaean descended from Russia to Greece between 1900 and 1650 BCE, where they intermingled with the locals to create a new unique Greek culture.

Seima-Turbino refers to burial sites dating around 1500 BC found across northern Eurasia, from Finland to Mongolia. The buried were nomadic warriors and metal-workers, travelling on horseback or two-wheeled chariots. These nomads originated from the Altai Mountains. The culture spread from these mountains to the west. Although they were the precursor to the much later Mongol invasions, these groups were not yet strong enough to attack the important social sites of the Bronze Age.

These cultures are noted for being nomadic forest and steppe societies with metal working, sometimes without having first developed agricultural methods. The development of this metalworking ability appears to have taken place quite quickly.

The Qijia culture (2400 BC – 1900 BC) was an early Bronze Age culture distributed around the upper Yellow River region of Gansu (centered in Lanzhou) and eastern Qinghai, China, it is regarded as one of the earliest bronze cultures.

Qijia culture was a sedentary culture, based on agriculture, and breeding pigs, which were also used in sacrifices. Qijia culture is distinguished by a presence of numerous domesticated horses, and practice of oracle divination, the metal knives and axes recovered apparently point to some interactions with Siberian and Central Asian cultures, in particular with the Seima-Turbino complex.

Archeological evidence points to a plausible early contacts between the Qijia culture and Central Asia. During the late stages of the culture, the Qijia culture retreated from the west and suffered a reduction in population size. Qijia culture produced some of the earliest bronze and copper mirrors found in China. Extensive domestication of horses are found at many Qijia sites.

The archaeological site at Lajia, Huangniangniangtai, Qinweijia, and Dahezhuang are associated with the Qijia culture, which was at the same time as the Longshan Culture (2500-2000 BC), a widespread in the central plains in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, and is characterized by very fine unpainted ceramics and simple tools.

The Longshan Culture, discovered largely in East and Central China, represents a critical period for the origin of civilization in China, with the appearance of city sites as its significant symbol. Up to now, dozens of sites confirmed to be ancient cities have been unearthed in the central plains and southern areas of China, whereas sites of Qijia Culture have to date produced no such city.

Posted in Caucasus, Central Asia, China | Leave a Comment »

The Cult of the Dragon

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 23, 2013

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Frikar in Dragons Temple on Vimeo

A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that features in the myths of many cultures. It is a mythological representation of a reptile. In antiquity, dragons were mostly envisaged as serpents, but since the Middle Ages, it has become common to depict them with legs, resembling a lizard.

The word dragon entered the English language in the early 13th century from Old French dragon, which in turn comes from Latin draconem (nominative draco) meaning “huge serpent, dragon,” from the Greek word drakon (genitive drakontos) “serpent, giant seafish”. The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, and this usage was also current in English up to the 18th century.

Dragons are usually shown in modern times with a body like a huge lizard, or a snake with two pairs of lizard-type legs, and able to emit fire from their mouths. The European dragon has bat-like wings growing from its back. A dragon-like creature with wings but only a single pair of legs is known as a wyvern.

Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Some dragons are said to breathe fire or to be poisonous, such as in the Old English poem Beowulf.

Dragons are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically scaly or feathered bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as hoarding treasure. Some myths portray them with a row of dorsal spines. European dragons are more often winged, while Chinese dragons resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature.

Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom – often said to be wiser than humans – and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech. In some traditions dragons are said to have taught humans to talk.

Narratives about dragons often involve them being killed by a hero. This topos can be traced to the Chaoskampf of the mythology of the Ancient Near East (e.g. Hadad vs. Yam, Marduk vs. Tiamat, Teshub vs. Illuyanka, etc.; the Biblical Leviathan presumably reflects a corresponding opponent of an early version of Yahweh).

The motif is continued in Greek Apollo, and the early Christian narratives about Archangel Michael and Saint George. The slaying of Vrtra by Indra in the Rigveda also belongs in this category. The theme survives into medieval legend and folklore, with dragon slayers such as Beowulf, Sigurd, Tristan, Margaret the Virgin, Heinrich von Winkelried, Dobrynya Nikitich, Skuba Dratewka/Krakus.

In Biblical myth, the archetype is alluded to in the descendants of Adam crushing the head of the Serpent, and in Christian mythology, this was interpreted as corresponding to Christ as the “New Adam” crushing the Devil.

The blood of a slain dragon is depicted as either beneficent or as poisonous in medieval legend and literary fiction. In German legend, dragon blood has the power to render invincible skin or armor bathed in it, as is the case with Siegfried’s skin or Ortnit’s armor.

In the Slavic myth, the Earth refuses it as it is so vile that Mother Earth wishes not to have it within her womb, and it remains above ground for all eternity. The blood of the dragon in Beowulf has acidic qualities, allowing it to seep through iron. Heinrich von Winkelried dies after the blood of the dragon slain by him accidentally drips on him.

There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, and the Chinese dragon, with counterparts in Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries.

The two traditions may have evolved separately, but have influenced each other to a certain extent, particularly with the cross-cultural contact of recent centuries. The English word “dragon” derives from Greek (drákōn), “dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake”.

The association of the serpent with a monstrous opponent overcome by a heroic deity has its roots in the mythology of the Ancient Near East, including Canaanite (Hebrew, Ugaritic), Hittite and Mesopotamian. Humbaba, the fire-breathing dragon-fanged beast first described in the Epic of Gilgamesh is sometimes described as a dragon with Gilgamesh playing the part of dragon-slayer.

In Akkadian mythology Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Sumerian spelling), also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned Humbaba as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi.

Teshub (also written Teshup or Tešup) was the Hurrian god of sky and storm. He is related to the Hattian Taru. His Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun (with variant stem forms Tarhunt, Tarhuwant, Tarhunta), although this name is from the Hittite root *tarh- “to defeat, conquer”.

Teshub is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs.

According to Hittite myths, one of Teshub’s greatest acts was the slaying of the dragon Illuyanka. Myths also exist of his conflict with the sea creature (possibly a snake or serpent) Hedammu. This monster was born of Kumarbi’s union with the daughter of a sea-god and emerged from the sea to devour animals and humans. It was eventually subdued by Teshub’s sister Sauska/Ishtar who caused the seawater to act as a sleeping draught.

In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. . The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology and paganism was known in Old English as Þunor and in Old High German as Donar, stemming from a Common Germanic Þunraz (meaning “thunder”).

Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor, is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of leveling mountains. Tanngrisnir (Old Norse “teeth-barer, snarler”) and Tanngnjóstr (Old Norse “teeth grinder”) are the goats who pull the god Thor’s chariot in Norse mythology.

In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr (Old Norse: Jǫrmungandr, pronounced [ˈjɔrmuŋɡandr]), often written Jormungand, or Jörmungand and also known as the Midgard Serpent (Old Norse: Midgarðsormr), or World Serpent, is a sea serpent, the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and Loki.

According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki’s three children by Angrboða, the wolf Fenrir, Hel and Jörmungandr, and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the earth and grasp his own tail. As a result, he received the name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. When he lets go, the world will end.

Jörmungandr’s arch-enemy is the god Thor. It comes from the ouroboros. The Ouroboros is symbolized by a snake biting its own tail. It comes from the Greek word “Ouron” which means “To make water”, explaining the references of Jormungandr to the sea. It symbolizes balance in nature, hence, when he “lets go”, it would be similar to Atlas letting go, which means there would be chaos and no order.

The legless serpent (Chaoskampf) motif entered Greek mythology and ultimately Christian mythology, although the serpent motif may already be part of prehistoric Indo-European mythology as well, based on comparative evidence of Indic and Germanic material. It has been speculated that accounts of spitting cobras may be the origin of the myths of fire-breathing dragons.

European dragons exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. Dragons are generally depicted as living in rivers or having an underground lair or cave.[9] They are commonly described as having hard or armoured hide, and are rarely described as flying, despite often being depicted with wings.

European dragons are usually depicted as malevolent though there are exceptions (such as Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales).

Tarhunt the god of thunder and his conflict with the serpent Illuyanka, which is to find in the religion of the Hittites and Luwians, resembles the conflict between Indra and the cosmic serpent Vritra in Vedic mythology, or Thor and the serpent Jörmungandr in Norse mythology.

In the early Vedic religion, Vritra (Devanāgarī) or Vṛtra “the enveloper”, was an Asura and also a “naga” (serpent) or possibly dragon-like creature, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi (“snake”) and he is said to have had three heads.

In Asia, the concept of dragon appears largely in a form of a Long, a beneficent dragon-like creature from Chinese folklore. Another dragon-like creature which appears in the form of Naga, which is prevalent in some Southeast Asian countries with more direct influence from Vedic religion.

Nāga, snakes that may take human form, is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very great snake — specifically the king cobra, found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

In the great epic Mahabharata, the depiction of nagas tends toward the positive. An epic calls them “persecutors of all creatures”, and tells us “the snakes were of virulent poison, great prowess and excess of strength, and ever bent on biting other creatures” (Book I: Adi Parva, Section 20). At some points within the story, nagas are important players in many of the events narrated in the epic, frequently no more evil nor deceitful than the other protagonists, and sometimes on the side of good.

Stories involving the nāgas are still very much a part of contemporary cultural traditions in predominantly Hindu regions of Asia (India, Nepal, and the island of Bali). In India, nāgas are considered nature spirits and the protectors of springs, wells and rivers. They bring rain, and thus fertility, but are also thought to bring disasters such as floods and drought.

In China, depiction of the dragon can be found in artifacts from the Shang and Zhou dynasties with examples dating back to the 16th century BC. The Chinese name for dragon is pronounced “lóng” in Mandarin Chinese or “lùhng” in the Cantonese. Archaeologist Zhōu Chong-Fa believes that the Chinese word for dragon is an onomatopoeia of the sound thunder makes.

The origin of the Chinese dragon is not certain. The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from the Hongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.

Dragons or dragon-like depictions have been found extensively in neolithic-period archaeological sites throughout China. The earliest depiction of dragons was found at Xinglongwa culture ) (6200-5400 BC) sites. Yangshao culture sites in Xi’an have produced clay pots with dragon motifs. The Liangzhu culture also produced dragon-like patterns. The Hongshan culture sites in present-day Inner Mongolia produced jade dragon amulets in the form of pig dragons.

One such early form was the pig dragon. It is a coiled, elongated creature with a head resembling a boar. The character for “dragon” in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

The Chinese dragon is the highest-ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy, strongly associated at one time with the emperor and hence power and majesty (the mythical bird fenghuang was the symbol of the Chinese empress), still recognized and revered.

Chinese dragons are occasionally depicted with bat-like wings growing out of the front limbs, but most do not have wings, as their ability to fly (and control rain/water, etc.) are mystical and not seen as a result of their physical attributes. Many pictures of oriental dragons show a flaming pearl under their chin. The pearl is associated with wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

Chinese dragons are strongly associated with water in popular belief. Just as water destroys, they said, so can some dragons destroy via floods, tidal waves and storms. They suggested that some of the worst floods were believed to have been the result of a mortal upsetting a dragon.

They are believed to be the rulers of moving bodies of water, such as waterfalls, rivers, or seas. They can show themselves as water spouts (tornado or twister over water). In this capacity as the rulers of water and weather, the dragon is more anthropomorphic in form, often depicted as a humanoid, dressed in a king’s costume, but with a dragon head wearing a king’s headdress.

According to Chinese legend, both Chinese primogenitors, the earliest Emperors, Yandi and Huangdi, were closely related to ‘Long’ (Chinese Dragon). At the end of his reign, the first legendary Emperor, Huangdi, was said to have been immortalized into a dragon that resembled his emblem, and ascended to Heaven. The other legendary Emperor, Huangdi’s brother, Yandi was born by his mother’s telepathy with a mythic dragon.

Since the Chinese consider Huangdi and Yandi as their ancestors, they sometimes refer to themselves as “the descendants of the dragon”. This legend also contributed towards the use of the Chinese dragon as a symbol of imperial power.

The dragon, especially yellow or golden dragons with five claws on each foot, was a symbol for the emperor in many Chinese dynasties. The imperial throne was called the Dragon Throne. During the late Qing Dynasty, the dragon was even adopted as the national flag. The dragon is featured in the carvings on the steps of imperial palaces and tombs, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.

In some Chinese legends, an Emperor might be born with a birthmark in the shape of a dragon. For example, one legend tells the tale of a peasant born with a dragon birthmark who eventually overthrows the existing dynasty and founds a new one; another legend might tell of the prince in hiding from his enemies who is identified by his dragon birthmark.

In contrast, the Empress of China was often identified with the Fenghuang, mythological birds of East Asia that reign over all other birds. The males are called feng and the females huang. In modern times, however, such a distinction of gender is often no longer made and they are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which is deemed male. In the West, it is commonly referred to as the Chinese phoenix or simply Phoenix.

Its origins are vague, but its “ancestors can be found on Neolithic pottery as well as Bronze Age ritual vessels.” Images of an ancient bird have appeared in China for over 8000 years, as earliest as the Hongshan neolithic period, on jade and pottery motifs, then appearing decorating bronze as well as jade figurines. Some believe they may have been a good-luck totem among eastern tribes of ancient China.

Tradition has it composed of nine different animals, with nine sons, each with its own imagery and affiliations. It is the only mythological animal of the 12 animals that represent the Chinese calendar. 2012 was the Chinese year of the Water Dragon.

In modern times, belief in the dragon appears to be sporadic at best. There appear to be very few who would see the dragon as a literally real creature. The worship of the Dragon Kings as rulers of water and weather continues in many areas, and is deeply ingrained in Chinese cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year celebrations.

Sometime after the 9th century AD, Japan adopted the Chinese dragon through the spread of Buddhism. Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896:248), the Japanese dragon is “invariably figured as possessing three claws”.

Although the indigenous name for a dragon in Japanese is tatsu, a few of the Japanese words for dragon stem from the Chinese word for dragon, namely, “ryū” or “ryō”. The Vietnamese word for dragon is rồng and the Korean word for dragon is “ryong”.

Vietnamese dragons (rồng or long) are symbolic creatures in the folklore and mythology of Vietnam. According to an ancient creation myth, the Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon and a fairy. To Vietnamese people, the dragon brings rain, essential for agriculture. It represents the emperor, the prosperity and power of the nation. Like the Chinese dragon, the Vietnamese dragon is the symbol of yang, representing the universe, life, existence, and growth. Extant references to the Vietnamese Dragon are rare now, due to the fierce changes in history that accompanied the sinicization of the Nguyễn Dynasty.

Posted in China, Religion | Leave a Comment »

Indo-Europeans at Linzi

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 12, 2013

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Stock Photo #4149-12270, Ancient chariot from Shang Dynasty, Linzi Museum of Ancient Chariots, Linzi District, Zibo City, Shandong, China

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To examine temporal changes in population genetic structure, we compared the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences of three populations that lived in the same location, Linzi, China, in different periods: 2,500 years ago (the Spring–Autumn era), 2,000 years ago (the Han era), and the present day. Two indices were used to compare the genetic differences: the frequency distributions of the radiating haplotype groups and the genetic distances among the populations.

The results indicate that the genetic backgrounds of the three populations are distinct from each other. Inconsistent with the geographical distribution, the 2,500-year-old Linzi population showed greater genetic similarity to present-day European populations than to present-day east Asian populations. The 2,000-year-old Linzi population had features that were intermediate between the present-day European/2,500-year-old Linzi populations and the present-day east Asian populations.

These relationships suggest the occurrence of drastic spatiotemporal changes in the genetic structure of Chinese people during the past 2,500 years.

Genetic Structure of a 2,500-Year-Old Human Population in China and Its Spatiotemporal Changes

Prior to the expansion of Shang and Zhou culture through the region, many hundreds of tumuli were also constructed by the “Baiyue” peoples of the Yangtze valley and southeastern China. Historian Luo Xianglin has suggested that these peoples shared a common ancestry with the Xia Dynasty. There is little evidence, however, that the Yue peoples held any common identity.

The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty, according to traditional historiography, ruled in the Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia Dynasty and followed by the Zhou Dynasty.

The earliest archaeological evidence of chariots in China, a chariot burial site discovered in 1933 at Hougang, Anyang in Henan province, dates to the rule of King Wu Ding of the late Shang Dynasty (c. 1200 BC). Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the western enemies of the Shang used limited numbers of chariots in battle, but the Shang themselves used them only as mobile command vehicles and in royal hunts.

The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the Classic of History, Bamboo Annals and Records of the Grand Historian. According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations made approximately 2,000 years ago by Liu Xin, the Shang ruled from 1766 BC to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the “current text” of Bamboo Annals, they ruled from 1556 BC to 1046 BC. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project dated them from c. 1600 BC to 1046 BC.

Archaeological work at the Ruins of Yin (near modern day Anyang), which has been identified as the last Shang capital, uncovered eleven major Yin royal tombs and the foundations of palaces and ritual sites, containing weapons of war and remains from both animal and human sacrifices. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone, and ceramic artifacts have been obtained. The workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization.

The Anyang site has yielded the earliest known body of Chinese writing, mostly divinations inscribed on oracle bones – turtle shells, ox scapulae, or other bones. More than 20,000 were discovered in the initial scientific excavations during the 1920s and 1930s, and over four times as many have been found since. The inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of Chinese civilization.

Before the 20th century, the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC) was the earliest Chinese dynasty that could be verified from its own records. However during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), antiquarians collected bronze ritual vessels attributed to the Shang era, some of which bore inscriptions.

Chinese bronze casting and pottery advanced during the Shang dynasty, with bronze typically being used for ritually significant, rather than primarily utilitarian, items. As far back as c. 1500 BC, the early Shang Dynasty engaged in large-scale production of bronze-ware vessels and weapons. This production required a large labor force that could handle the mining, refining, and transportation of the necessary copper, tin, and lead ores. This in turn created a need for official managers that could oversee both hard-laborers and skilled artisans and craftsmen.

The Shang royal court and aristocrats required a vast amount of different bronze vessels for various ceremonial purposes and events of religious divination. Ceremonial rules even decreed how many bronze containers of each type a nobleman or noblewoman of a certain rank could own. With the increased amount of bronze available, the army could also better equip itself with an assortment of bronze weaponry. Bronze was also used for the fittings of spoke-wheeled chariots, which appeared in China around 1200 BC.

The Western Zhou period (1046–771 BCE) was the first half of the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China. It began when King Wu of Zhou overthrew the Shang Dynasty at the Battle of Muye. The dynasty was successful for about seventy-five years and then slowly lost power. The former Shang lands were divided into hereditary fiefs which became increasingly independent of the king. In 771, barbarians drove the Zhou out of the Wei River valley; afterwards that real power was in the hands of the king’s nominal vassals.

The twelfth and last king of the Western Zhou period was King You of Zhou (781–771 BCE). When You replaced his wife with a concubine, the former queen’s powerful father, the Marquess of Shen, joined forces with Quanrong barbarians to sack the western capital of Haojing and kill King You in 770 BCE. Most of the Zhou nobles withdrew from the Wei River valley and the capital was reestablished downriver at the old eastern capital of Chengzhou near modern-day Luoyang. This was the start of the Eastern Zhou period, which is customarily divided into the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period.

It is possible that the Zhou kings derived most of their income from royal lands in the Wei valley. This would explain the sudden loss of royal power when the Zhou were driven east, but the matter is hard to prove. In recent decades, archaeologists have found a significant number of treasure hoards that were buried in the Wei valley about the time the Zhou were expelled. This implies that the Zhou nobles were suddenly driven from their homes and hoped to return, but never did.

Qi was a powerful state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China. Its capital was Linzi, in present-day Zibo, Shandong Province. The state was founded around in 1046 BC as one of the many vassal states of the Zhou Dynasty. The first ruler of Qi was Jiang Ziya, the most powerful official during that time. The Jiang family ruled Qi for several centuries before it was replaced by the Tian family in 386 BC. In 221 BC, Qi was the last state of pre-Imperial China to be conquered by the State of Qin, which became the Qin Dynasty, the first centralized empire of China.

Linzi, originally called Yingqiu, was the capital of the ancient Chinese state of Qi during the Zhou Dynasty. The ruins of the city lie in modern day Linzi District, Shandong, China. The city was one of the largest and richest in China during the Spring and Autumn Period.

With occupying Linzi in 221 BC, King Zheng of Qin completed his conquest of the Chinese rival states and declared himself the first emperor of China shortly afterwards. The ruins of the ancient city were excavated in 1926 by Japanese archaeologists and in 1964 by Chinese archaeologists.

Linzi covered an area of around 668 km². The city was built between two parallel rivers that ran north-south, the Zi River to its east and the old course of the Xi River to its west. The city was surrounded by a 14 km perimeter wall of rammed earth.

The city consisted of an outer city and an inner city. The outer city wall reached a maximum of 43 meters in base width, averaging between 20 to 30 meters in width. The inner city wall reached a maximum of 60 meters in base width. The city had a sewer and water works system.

The palace was located in the inner city, located in the southwestern corner of Linzi. A large rammed earth platform was found inside the inner city, commonly referred to as the Duke Huan platform. The remains of the platform measure 86 by 70 meters and are 14 meters high.

“Seven broad avenues, some 20 m wide and over 4,000 m long, ran north-south and east-west, roughly forming a grid pattern. Four major avenues met in the northeast section of the city. It is no coincidence that this area yielded the richest cultural remains from the Western Zhou to the Han.”

In the Records of the Grand Historian, the population of Linzi in the fourth and third centuries B.C. was said to be 70,000 households, with at least 210,000 adult males. Scholars today believe this was somewhat exaggerated.

The kings of Qi and the Qi state acted as patrons of the Jixia Academy (ca 315-285 B.C.) in Linzi, the earliest and largest (in its time) center of learning in China. The Academy, possibly named after the city gate (Ji) nearby, was made up of chosen scholars who received a handsome stipend from the government in return for advising the king on government, rites and philosophy. Among the Jixia Academy scholars were Mencius, Xun Zi (who taught Han Fei Zi and Li Si, among others), and Shen Dao.

The ruins of the city are surrounded by over 100 tumulus, some as far as 10 km away. Many of the tombs around Linzi had been looted in antiquity. Over 600 horses were sacrificed in two rows, found in a tomb pit, near what is considered the tomb of Duke Jing of Qi. The sacrificial horse pit is now the site of a museum, the Museum of the State of Qi.

Shang Dynasty

Western Zhou

Qi (state)

Posted in China, Indo-Europeans | Leave a Comment »

Indo-Europeans in China

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 12, 2013

The Wei River is a major river in west-central China’s Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. It is the largest tributary of the Yellow River and very important in the early development of Chinese civilization.

The valley of the Wei was one of the early cradles of Chinese civilization, along which the capitals of the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang Dynasties were situated. The area of Dingxi around its headwaters in Gansu has numerous stone age sites from various early cultures. The Wei Valley is likely the earliest center of Chinese civilisation, and also the location of China’s first major irrigation works and some Chinese historians now believe the Wei is the ancient Jiang River which gave its name to the families of Shennong and the Yan emperor, two Chinese culture heroes involved with the early development of agriculture there.

The headwaters of the Wei River are also notable in the development of the Northern Silk Road. The Chinese segment of the Northern Silk Road connected Xi’an (then the capital of China) to the west via Baoji, Tianshui at the Wei’s headwaters, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, and the Wushao Ling Pass, before looping north of the Takla Makan on its way to Kashgar and the routes into Parthia.

The chariot is a type of carriage using animals (almost always horses) to provide rapid motive power. Chariots were used for war as “battle taxis” and mobile archery platforms, as well as more peaceable pursuits such as hunting or racing for sport, and as a chief vehicle of many ancient peoples, when speed of travel was desired rather than how much weight could be carried.

The wheeled vehicle spread from the area of its first occurrence (Mesopotamia, Caucasus, Balkans, Central Europe) across Eurasia, reaching the Indus Valley by the 3rd millennium BC. During the 2nd millennium BC, the spoke-wheeled chariot spread at an increased pace, reaching both China and Scandinavia by 1200 BC.

A further expansion to northwestern China happened around 2000 BC. Although ‘’Equus’’ bones of uncertain species are found in some Late Neolithic sites in China dated before 2000 BC, ‘’Equus caballus’’ or ‘’Equus ferus’’ bones first appeared in multiple sites and in significant numbers in sites of the Qijia and Siba cultures, 2000-1600 BC, in Gansu and the northwestern provinces of China.

The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the “period between about 2000 BC and 771 BC,” a period that begins with Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule.

In 1899, it was found that Chinese pharmacists were selling “dragon bones” marked with curious and archaic characters. These were finally traced back in 1928 to a site (now called Yinxu) near Anyang, north of the Yellow River in modern Henan province, where the Academia Sinica undertook archeological excavation until the Japanese invasion in 1937.

Archaeologists focused on the Yellow River valley in Henan as the most likely site of the states described in the traditional histories. After 1950, remnants of an earlier walled city were discovered near Zhengzhou. It has been determined that the earth walls at Zhengzhou, erected in the 15th century BC, would have been 20 metres (66 ft) wide at the base, rising to a height of 8 metres (26 ft), and formed a roughly rectangular wall 7 kilometres (4 mi) around the ancient city.

The rammed earth construction of these walls was an inherited tradition, since much older fortifications of this type have been found at Chinese Neolithic sites of the Longshan culture (c. 3000–2000 BC).

In 1959, the site of the Erlitou culture was found in Yanshi, south of the Yellow River near Luoyang. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the Erlitou culture flourished ca. 2100 BC to 1800 BC. They built large palaces, suggesting the existence of an organized state.

The Erlitou culture is a name given by archaeologists to an Early Bronze Age urban society that existed in China from 1880 BCE to 1520 BC. The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi, Henan Province. They built large palaces, suggesting the existence of an organized state.

The Erlitou culture may have evolved from the matrix of Longshan culture. Originally centered around Henan and Shanxi Province, the culture spread to Shaanxi and Hubei Province. After the rise of the Erligang culture, a Bronze Age archaeological culture in China, the site at Erlitou diminished in size but remained inhabited.

Discovered in 1959 by Xu Xusheng, Erlitou is the largest site associated with the Erlitou Culture, with palace buildings and bronze smelting workshops. Erlitou monopolized the production of ritual bronze vessels. The city is on the Yi River, a tributary of the Luo River, which flows into the Yellow River.

The Erligang culture was centered in the Yellow River valley. Its bronzes developed from the style and techniques of the earlier Erlitou culture, centred 85 km to the west of Zhengzhou. Erligang was the first archaeological culture in China to show widespread use of bronze vessel castings. Bronze vessels became much more widely used and uniform in style than at Erlitou.

The Erligang culture represented by the Zhengzhou site is found across a wide area of China, even as far northeast as the area of modern Beijing, where at least one burial in this region during this period contained both Erligang-style bronzes and local-style gold jewelry. The discovery of a Chenggu-style ge dagger-axe at Xiaohenan demonstrates that even at this early stage of Chinese history, there were some ties between the distant areas of north China. The Panlongcheng site in the middle Yangtze valley was an important regional center of the Erligang culture.

Accidental finds elsewhere in China have revealed advanced civilizations contemporaneous with but culturally unlike the settlement at Anyang, such as the walled city of Sanxingdui in Sichuan. Western scholars are hesitant to designate such settlements as belonging to the Shang dynasty. Also unlike the Shang, there is no known evidence that the Sanxingdui culture had a system of writing. The late Shang state at Anyang is thus generally considered the first verifiable civilization in Chinese history. In contrast, the earliest layers of the Wucheng site, pre-dating Anyang, have yielded pottery fragments containing short sequences of symbols, suggesting that they may be a form of writing quite different in form from oracle bone characters, but the sample is too small for decipherment.

The oldest extant direct records date from around 1200 BC at Anyang, covering the reigns of the last nine Shang kings. The Shang had a fully developed system of writing, preserved on bronze inscriptions and a small number of other writings on pottery, jade and other stones, horn, etc., but most prolifically on oracle bones. The complexity and sophistication of this writing system indicates an earlier period of development, but direct evidence of that development is still lacking. Other advances included the invention of many musical instruments and observations of Mars and various comets by Shang astronomers.

Their civilization was based on agriculture and augmented by hunting and animal husbandry. In addition to war, the Shang also practiced human sacrifice. Cowry shells were also excavated at Anyang, suggesting trade with coast-dwellers, but there was very limited sea trade in ancient China since China was isolated from other large civilizations during the Shang period. Trade relations and diplomatic ties with other formidable powers via the Silk Road and Chinese voyages to the Indian Ocean did not exist until the reign of Emperor Wu during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–221 AD).

Chinese historians living in later periods were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeeding another, and readily identified the Zhengzhou and Erlitou sites with the early Shang and Xia Dynasty of traditional histories. Chinese archaeologists generally identify the Erlitou culture as the site of the Xia dynasty, but there is no firm evidence, such as writing, to substantiate such a linkage.

The actual political situation in early China may have been more complicated, with the Xia and Shang being political entities that existed concurrently, just as the early Zhou, who established the successor state of the Shang, are known to have existed at the same time as the Shang.

Yu the Great (c. 2200 – 2100 BC), was a legendary ruler in ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character. Yu is one of the few Chinese rulers posthumously honored with the epithet “the Great”.

Few, if any, records exist from the period of Chinese history when Yu reigned. Because of this, the vast majority of information about his life and reign comes from collected pieces of oral tradition and stories that were passed down in various areas of China, many of which were collected in Sima Qian’s famous Records of the Grand Historian. Yu and other “sage-kings” of Ancient China were lauded by Confucius and other Chinese teachers, who praised their virtues and morals.

A major goal of archaeology in China has been the search for the capitals of the Xia and Shang dynasties described in traditional accounts as inhabiting the Yellow River valley. These originally oral traditions were recorded much later in histories such as the Bamboo Annals (c. 300 BCE) and the Records of the Grand Historian (1st century BCE), and their historicity, particularly regarding the Xia, is doubted by many scholars. The discovery of writing in the form of oracle bones at Yinxu in Anyang definitively established the site as the last capital of the Shang, but such evidence is unavailable for earlier sites.

When Xu Xusheng first discovered Erlitou, he suggested that it was Bo, the first capital of the Shang under King Tang in the traditional account.

Since the late 1970s speculation among Chinese achaeologists has focussed on its relationship to the Xia. The traditional account of the overthrow of the Xia by the Shang has been identified with the ends of each of the four phases of the site by different authors. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project identified all four phases of Erlitou as Xia, and the construction of the Yanshi walled city as the founding of the Shang. Other scholars, particularly outside China, point to the lack of any firm evidence for such an identification, and argue that the historiographical focus of Chinese archaeology is unduly limiting.

The Erligang culture represented by the Zhengzhou site is found across a wide area of China, even as far northeast as the area of modern Beijing, where at least one burial in this region during this period contained both Erligang-style bronzes and local-style gold jewelry. The discovery of a Chenggu-style ge dagger-axe at Xiaohenan demonstrates that even at this early stage of Chinese history, there were some ties between the distant areas of north China. The Panlongcheng site in the middle Yangtze valley was an important regional center of the Erligang culture.

Accidental finds elsewhere in China have revealed advanced civilizations contemporaneous with but culturally unlike the settlement at Anyang, such as the walled city of Sanxingdui in Sichuan. Western scholars are hesitant to designate such settlements as belonging to the Shang dynasty.

Also unlike the Shang, there is no known evidence that the Sanxingdui culture had a system of writing. The late Shang state at Anyang is thus generally considered the first verifiable civilization in Chinese history. In contrast, the earliest layers of the Wucheng site, pre-dating Anyang, have yielded pottery fragments containing short sequences of symbols, suggesting that they may be a form of writing quite different in form from oracle bone characters, but the sample is too small for decipherment.

The Qijia culture was in contact with cultures of the Eurasian steppes, as shown through similarities between Qijia and Late Bronze Age steppe metallurgy, so it was probably through these contacts that domesticated horses first became frequent in northwestern China.

The Altai Mountains in what is now southern Russia and central Mongolia have been identified as the point of origin of a cultural enigma termed the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon. It is conjectured that changes in climate in this region around 2000 BC and the ensuing ecological, economic and political changes triggered a rapid and massive migration westward into northeast Europe, eastward into China and southward into Vietnam and Thailand across a frontier of some 4,000 miles.

The Qijia culture (2400 BC – 1900 BC) was an early Bronze Age culture distributed around the upper Yellow River region of Gansu (centered in Lanzhou) and eastern Qinghai, China, it is regarded as one of the earliest bronze cultures. Johan Gunnar Andersson discovered the initial site at Qijiaping) in 1923.

Qijia culture was a sedentary culture, based on agriculture, and breeding pigs, which were also used in sacrifices. Qijia culture is distinguished by a presence of numerous domesticated horses, and practice of oracle divination, the metal knives and axes recovered apparently point to some interactions with Siberian and Central Asian cultures, in particular with the Seima-Turbino complex.

Archeological evidence points to a plausible early contacts between the Qijia culture and Central Asia. During the late stages of the culture, the Qijia culture retreated from the west and suffered a reduction in population size. Qijia culture produced some of the earliest bronze and copper mirrors found in China. Extensive domestication of horses are found at many Qijia sites.

The archaeological site at Lajia, Huangniangniangtai, Qinweijia, and Dahezhuang are associated with the Qijia culture.

Evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the mid-4th millennium BC, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia, Indus Valley(Moenjodaro), the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe, so that the question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle remains unresolved and under debate. The world’s oldest wooden wheel, dating from 5,250 ± 100 BP, was discovered by Slovenian archeologists in 2002.

The earliest well-dated depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here a wagon—four wheels, two axles), is on the Bronocice pot, a c. 3500 – 3350 BC clay pot excavated in a Funnelbeaker culture settlement in southern Poland.

In China, the wheel was certainly present with the adoption of the chariot in c. 1200 BC, although Barbieri-Low argues for earlier Chinese wheeled vehicles, c. 2000 BC. The earliest archaeological evidence of chariots in China, a chariot burial site discovered in 1933 at Hougang, Anyang in Henan province, dates to the rule of King Wu Ding of the late Shang Dynasty (c. 1200 BC).

Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the western enemies of the Shang used limited numbers of chariots in battle, but the Shang themselves used them only as mobile command vehicles and in royal hunts.

Wagons and chariots were introduced into China from the west by Indo-Europeans. The European penetration of China did not begin with the opening of the transcontinental Silk Road trade route that history books usually place in the second century B.C., but at least 2,000 years earlier at the turn of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, when the whole of Eurasia became culturally and technologically interconnected by migrating Europeans.

These discoveries have extremely important consequences for understanding the origins of Chinese civilization, since the chariot has now been demonstrated to have entered China only around the middle of the second millennium B.C., at roughly the same time that bronze metallurgy and writing developed there.

The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qäwrighul and dated to 1800 BCE, are of a Europoid physical type whose closest affiliation is to the Bronze Age populations of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the Lower Volga. The earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins can be traced to the Afanasevo culture (3500–2500 BC), which displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Eurasian Steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000–900 BCE) enough to isolate the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization.

The colonists from the steppelands and highlands immediately north of East Central Asia were related to the Afanasievo culture which exploited both open steppelands and upland environments employing a mixed agricultural economy. The Afanasievo culture formed the eastern linguistic periphery of the Indo-European continuum of languages.

The occupants of the Afanasevo culture are not derived from proto-European steppe populations, but share closest affinities with Eastern Mediterranean populations. Such Eastern Mediterraneans may also be found at the urban centers of the Oxus civilization located in the north Bactrian oasis to the west.

Gansu is a compound name first used in Song Dynasty China of two Sui and Tang Dynasty prefectures (): Gan (around Zhangye) and Su (around Jiuquan).

The ruins of a Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) Chinese watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, Gansu province, the eastern edge of the Silk Road

In prehistoric times, Gansu was host to a number of Neolithic cultures. The Dadiwan culture, from where numerous archaeologically significant artifacts have been excavated, flourished in the eastern end of Gansu from about 6000 BC to about 3000 BC. The Majiayao culture and part of the Qijia culture also took root in Gansu from 3100 BC to 2700 BC and 2400 BC to 1900 BC respectively.

The Yuezhi originally lived in the very western part of Gansu until they were forced to emigrate by the Xiongnu around 177 BCE. The Qin state, later to become the founding state of the Chinese empire, grew out from the southeastern part of Gansu, specifically the Tianshui area. The Qin name itself is believed to have originated, in part, from the area. Qin tombs and artifacts have been excavated from Fangmatan near Tianshui, including one 2200-year-old map of Guixian County.

In imperial times, Gansu was an important strategic outpost and communications link for the Chinese empire, as the Hexi corridor runs along the “neck” of the province. The Han dynasty extended the Great Wall across this corridor, also building the strategic Yumenguan (Jade Gate Pass, near Dunhuang) and Yangguan fort towns along it. Remains of the wall and the towns can be found there to this date. The Ming dynasty also built the Jiayuguan outpost in Gansu. To the west of Yumenguan and the Qilian Mountains, at the northwestern end of the province, the Yuezhi, Wusun, and other nomadic tribes dwelt (Shiji 123), occasionally figuring in regional imperial Chinese geopolitics.

Situated along the Silk Road, Gansu was an economically important province, and a cultural transmission path as well. Temples and Buddhist grottoes such as those at Mogao Caves (‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’) and Maijishan Caves contain artistically and historically revealing murals. An early form of paper inscribed with Chinese characters and dating to about 8 BC was discovered at the site of a Western Han garrison near the Yumen pass in August 2006.

By the Qingshui treaty, concluded in 823 between the Tibetan Empire and the Tang Dynasty, China lost for a long while a chunk of the Gansu province.

After the fall of the Uyghur Empire, an Uyghur state was established in parts of Gansu that lasted from 848 to 1036 AD. During that time, many of Gansu’s residents converted to Islam.

The Hui people are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in China. Hui people are found throughout the country, though they are concentrated mainly in the Northwestern provinces and the Central Plain. According to a 2000 census, China is home to approximately 9.8 million Hui people, the majority of whom are Chinese-speaking practitioners of Islam, though some practice other religions. Although many Hui people are ethnically similar to Han Chinese, the group has retained some Arabic, Persian and Central Asian features, their ethnicity and culture having been shaped profoundly by their position along the Silk Road trading route.

In the People’s Republic of China, the Hui people are one of 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. Under this definition, the Hui people are defined to include all historically Muslim communities in People’s Republic of China that are not included in China’s other ethnic groups. Since China’s Muslims speaking various Turkic, Mongolic, or Iranian languages are all included into those other groups (e.g., Uyghurs, Dongxiang, or Tajiks), the “officially recognized” Hui ethnic group consists predominantly of Chinese language speakers. In fact, the “Hui nationality” is unique among China’s officially recognized ethnic minorities in that it does not have any particular non-Sinitic language associated with it.

Most Hui, although they are not ethnically Han Chinese, are similar in culture to Han Chinese with the exception that they practice Islam, and have some distinctive cultural characteristics as a result. For example, as Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in Chinese culture, and have also given rise to their variation of Chinese cuisine, Chinese Islamic cuisine and Muslim Chinese martial arts. Their mode of dress also differs primarily in that men wear white caps and women wear headscarves or (occasionally) veils, as is the case in most Islamic cultures.

Elements of Indo-European Culture in China

Horse, Indo-Europeans Spread and The Rising of Zhou Dynasty

The Eastern-Asiatic Indo-Europeans and Their Fate

The Caucasians in China Part 2

Chinese culture – Barbarians

Posted in China, Indo-Europeans | Leave a Comment »

Tocharians

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 12, 2013

There was a time, well before the Turkic population movements, when central Asia was speaking Indo-european languages. During antiquity, Indo-iranian languages were once spoken by populations from the east of Europe up to the Altai mountains of south Siberia (Scythians, Sakas and Sarmatians were such peoples) and down to south Asia. Nevertheless, prior to this situation, another kind of Indo-european language was apparently present in Asia.

The first (supposedly) Indo-european migration eastwards (from its ancestral home of Ukraine and south Russia) we find tracks of, occured right before 3,500 BC and gave birth to the Afanasevo culture, whose extent was from Kazakhstan to south Siberia and Mongolia. It is likely that the population of the Afanasevo culture was speaking a language that was the ancestor of the Tocharian language (see the Xinjiang article for more details).

Central Asia

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