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Liangzhu Archaeological Site

Date of Submission: 29/01/2013
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Yuhang District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province
Ref.: 5805
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Northeast corner: N 30°24'48", E 120°00'17"

Northwest corner: N 30°24'41", E 119°58'58"

Southeast corner: N 30°23'20", E 120 00'19"

Southwest corner: N 30°22'55", E 119°58'28"

Liangzhu Archaeological Site is a comprehensive archaeological site representing the Chinese civilization of prehistoric rice agriculture between 3300 B.C. and 2300 B.C. Located in a plain of river network at the east foot of Tianmu Mountain north of the coastal hilly region in southeast China, it covers an area of 908.89 hectares in Yuhang District, Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province and consists of the archaeological site, unearthed cultural relics and an environment of wetland; meanwhile, the buffer zone covering 10,256.45 hectares around the nominated Liangzhu Site includes five heritage sites, namely Yaoshan, Tangshan, Xunshan, Huiguanshan and Yaojiadun which have potential supporting value to the property. It is one of the most important sites of the Neolithic Age in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

The Liangzhu Ancient City sits in a wetland environment in the plain of river network between Daxiong Mountain and Dazhe Mountain of the Tianmu Mountain Range. The Ancient City has a roughly rectangular plan with round corners, and is 1,500-1,700 meters wide from east to west and 1,800-1,900 meters long from north to south. Covering an area of 290 hectares, it was built nestling against Fengshan Hill and Zhishan Hill. Six city gates have been found so far, two in the north city wall, two in the east and two in the south. All are waterway entrances linking to the water network both inside and outside the city. Inside the city there are Mojiao Hill and other high artificial earth mounds, and Fanshan Site where jade wares of the supreme level of Liangzhu Culture were excavated from tombs of the nobilities. Outside of the city historic remains are found densely in an area about 700 hectares, and around the city there are accumulations of traces of life in the late period of Liangzhu Culture; important sites can be found on most of the terraces such as Wenjiashan, Bianjiashan and Meirendi which are 1-2 meters above the paddy fields. Also excavated  inside  and  outside  the city  are a large  number  of utensils  for production,  living,  military  and  ritual purposes represented by numerous delicate Liangzhu jade wares of cultural profoundness; the remains including city walls, foundations of large architectures,  tombs, alters, residences, docks and workshops imply existence of the largest ancient city of late Neolithic Age in the Yangtze River basin.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Site shows a political, economic, cultural and religious center of the prehistoric Liangzhu Culture (3300B.C.2300B.C.) of China. The Site, with its magnificent scale, the idea of selecting the site that is embraced by mountain and river, construction of the city with stone, the water system linking both inner and outer parts of the city, the spatial  hierarchy  between  different  settlements,  and  the  facilities  of  a  city  shown  by  the  foundations  of  large structures, presents the supreme achievements made by the late Neolithic settlement civilization in the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins. The types, functions, patterns and rules of using jade wares excavated from Fanshan and Yaoshan Altar-Tomb Sites reveal the origin of the fundamental feature of a country in the early period of Chinese civilization, namely “ritual and military affairs are the base of a nation”, and the significance in the consequent “ritual” culture throughout the 5,000 years’ civilization of China; the unearthed jade wares are of incomparable significance all around the world in terms of cultural meaning and technique; in particular, the “King of Cong (a jade piece in square shape with a hole in the middle)” with the most typical “deity and animal mask pattern” of Liangzhu jade ware exhibits the religious features of the agricultural civilization in the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins. The Site explains the supreme achievements of the rice agriculture in the initial stage of Chinese civilization, exhibits the Liangzhu Culture with far-reaching significance in the 5,000-year development of Chinese civilization, and is the evidence for the “diverse and integral” development of Chinese civilization. It is an outstanding representative of large settlement sites in East Asia along the history of human civilization and is well preserved with authenticity and integrity.

Liangzhu Archaeological Site meets Criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi) for inscription on the World Heritage List.

Criterion (ii): The Liangzhu Culture represented by the Liangzhu Archaeological Site was of far-reaching and long- lasting significance in the initial and early stages of Chinese civilization, and played an outstanding role in the 5,000- year development of Chinese civilization.

Criterion (iv): The Site shows a political, economic, cultural and religious center of the prehistoric Liangzhu Culture(3300B.C.2300B.C.) of China. The Site, with its magnificent scale, the idea of selecting the site that is embrace the foundations of large structures, presents the supreme achievements made by the late Neolithic settlement civilization in the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins. The types, functions, patterns and application of jade wares excavated from Fanshan and Yaoshan Altar-Tomb Sites reveal the origin of the fundamental feature of a country in the early period of Chinese civilization, namely “ritual and military affairs are the base of a nation”. It is an outstanding representative of large settlement sites in East Asia along the history of human civilization.

Criterion (vi): The shape, function, design and pattern of the jade Cong excavated from Liangzhu Archaeological Site reveal the origin of the “ritual” culture throughout the 5,000 years’ civilization of China; the most typical “deity and animal mask pattern” of Liangzhu jade ware exhibits the religious features of the agricultural civilization in the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity

The over 70-year archaeological excavation and investigation has confirmed the authenticity of Liangzhu Archaeological Site. Most of the remains, both outside and inside the ancient city, are under paddy fields and earth mounds. Parts of the north, west and south city walls were excavated and sheltered for protection. Remains in Yaoshan, Fanshan and Meirendi are backfilled after archaeological excavation. In particular, the sacrificial altars and tombs of Yaoshan and Fanshan are interpreted through simulation above ground without direct intervention to the sites. The other remains are generally buried underground without artificial intervention. To sum up, Liangzhu Archaeological Site generally has good authenticity, and the truthful and credible source of information helps understand the values of the property.

Integrity

The nominated property area of Liangzhu Archaeological Site is 908.89 hectares, covering the entire core elements of the city of 290 hectares, including the remains of city walls and gates, Fanshan  Tomb,  foundation  of large structures in Mojiao Hill and other, as well as major elements of historic setting: isolated hills such as Fengshan Hill, Zhishan Hill and Qianshan Hill, some historical water system and the wetland ecological environment; features of the site-selection and environment of the settlement of Liangzhu Ancient City are preserved with good integrity. Meanwhile, the buffer zone covering an area of 10,256.45 hectares includes the complete historical setting of the Daxiong Mountain and Dazhe Mountain, as well as heritage sites of the same period namely the Yaoshan, Tangshan, Xunshan, Huiguanshan and Yaojiadun which have potential value and need further archaeological research. To sum up, Liangzhu Archaeological Site has good integrity, abundant underground remains, and has basically preserved original setting and historical appearance, which satisfies the condition of integrity, with the wholeness and intactness of the site and its attributes well preserved.

Comparison with other similar properties

Comparison with cultural heritages of the same kind in China

Comparison with Yin Xu: Yin Xu, a Chinese World Heritage site of 1300B.C.-1046B.C., is known for its Chinese inscriptions and large architectural sites and is a representative of the shaping stage of Chinese civilization; Liangzhu Ancient City boasting large site of city and jade wares is a representative of the initial stage of Chinese civilization. The two respectively represent essential and connecting stages of Chinese civilization.

Comparison with Hongshan Culture Site: Liangzhu Archaeological Site locating in the plain of river network in the lower reach of the Yangtze River represents the peak of rice agriculture of south China in the late Neolithic Age, while Hongshan Culture Site in the hilly areas of Laoha River basin represents the summit of agriculture with hunting and livestock in north China in the initial stage of Chinese civilization. Respectively falling into Liangzhu Culture and Hongshan Culture, they both highlight  jade culture and exhibit obvious differences  in the form of settlement and religion.

Comparison with prehistoric city sites: Liangzhu Ancient City is the first Neolithic city site found in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Compared with other sites of Neolithic cities earlier than 2000 B.C. in China, particularly those in the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins, it features rice agriculture elements in terms of location, size, layout, construction technique, form and types of remains, implying the roles of different agricultural civilizations and geographic environment in the development of human settlements.

Comparison with prehistoric jade wares excavated from other ancient cultural sites: jade wares unearthed from Liangzhu Archaeological Site, compared with all the other excavated prehistoric jade wares and with ancient jade wares found in other parts of the world, are incomparable in terms of quantity, shape, workmanship, pattern and design, function, the rules of using, cultural influence and spiritual meaning.

Comparison with cultural heritage of the same kind in the world

Compared with the eight Neolithic settlement sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, Liangzhu Archaeological Site  is  of outstanding  significance  in  terms  of  the  representativeness  of  rice  agricultural  civilization,  size  of prehistoric settlement, and the cultural and spiritual meanings of unearthed utensils represented by jade wares.

To sum up, Liangzhu Archaeological Site is a peerless site with abundant and complete underground remains and rich information about the initial stage of human civilization which are rarely seen in other sites of the same period or in sites of the same kind.