HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL NEWS BRIEFS
FORBIDDEN CITY DOCUMENTARY
China Central Television's documentary Gugong (The Forbidden City) is now China's best-selling television series on the international market. According to a report in the 4 December issue of Huasheng bao, 150,000 sets of the series, available in six languages, have been marketed abroad to date.
CONFUCIUS IN CHINESE PRISONS
China Daily reported on 4 December that inmates in Beijiao Prison in Changchun are studying Confucian texts as part of a rehabilitation program run by the Jilin Provincial Association for Confucius Studies. The association has compiled a 66-page collection of annotated passages from the writings of the sage, and the emphasis of the course for prisoners is on memorisation and recitation, in keeping with Chinese tradition.
XISHUANGBANNA HERITAGE THREAT
China's Dai ethnic heritage could once be seen in the scenic villages of Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, but only five of the villages with their distinctive bamboo houses remain, and a report from Xinhua News Agency of 4 December 2006 suggests that these 'scenic' spots are threatened as richer villagers and outsiders construct modern brick and tile villas. The report says that villagers began constructing Western-style villas in 2002.
WARRIOR MOULD REVERSED
China Daily reported in its 2-3 December 2006 issue that materials developed by Chinese scientists working in conjunction with Belgium's Janssen Pharmaceutical Co. have succeeded in controlling the virulent mould that was threatening the Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin Shihuang. The mould originated in the unearthed timber and the earthworks in the warrior pits, according to Zhao Kun, director of the Relics Preservation Department of Emperor Qin Shihuang's Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum outside Xi'an.
FORMER RESIDENCE OF SOONG CHINGLING RE-OPENS
On 5 December 2006, the former residence of Soong Ching-ling (Song Qingling, 1893-1981), the wife of the revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen, in Huaihai Road, Shanghai, re-opened to the public, after being closed for ten months of restoration work. The residence designed by a German architect was built in 1920 by a Greek shipping merchant. Its garden covers 4,330 sq m of prime Shanghai real estate.
ANCIENT MILITARY SCOUTS' CAMP DISCOVERED
On 1 December 2006, Xinhua's Shijiazhuang bureau announced that archaeologists working under the Hebei Provincial Cultural Relics Institute had discovered the remains of a military scouts' post belonging to the state of Yan in the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) in Xushui county, Hebei province. The great wall of the Yan state ran to the east and north around the post.
TCM MUSEUM OPENS IN GUANGZHOU
On 1 December 2006, it was reported that construction of a large museum devoted to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and pharmacopoeia had been completed in Guangzhou. The museum, called Shennong Caotang Bowuguan, was established by a local herbal company at the foot of the Baiyun Mountain.
REVAMP OF TRADITIONAL GARDEN ARCHITECTURE IN BEIJING
On 30 November 2006 the Beijing Municipal Parks Management Centre announced that the city government would spend RMB148 million in 2007 on refurbishing and repairing ancient buildings in Beijing parks. The project, which begins in March 2007, will include several buildings in the Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan) grounds, Tiantan Park and Biyun Si (Azure Clouds Temple) in Beijing's Western Hills.
SHRINE TO NATIONAL ANTHEM IN SHANGHAI
Shanghai's Yangpu district will house a memorial commemorating the composition of March of the Volunteers, in 1935, as the theme song for the patriotic movie Songs and Daughters of the Storm shot in a film studio located near where the memorial will stand. Tian Han wrote the lyrics and Nie Er composed the music for the song. Adopted in 1949 as a 'national song', March of the Volunteers was banned during the Cultural Revolution, only to be reinstated later without its lyrics, and then fully restored as a national anthem in the 1970s. The memorial will include an exhibition hall, statues of the composers and a thematic sculpture. The sculpture, which will be constructed from steel and glass and which will stand 12 m in height, will resemble a fluttering national flag with a five-line music staff that lights up and encloses a circular plaza. Audio-visual displays will document the song's history.
ANCIENT ALUMINIUM COMPOUND DISCOVERED
According to a report of 30 November 2006 from Xinhua News Agency's Lanzhou bureau, archaeologists have discovered that some chariot fittings unearthed in August this year from damp Warring States tombs in Zhangjiachuan-Hui autonomous county in Gansu are made from a previously unidentified compound metal containing aluminium, as well as gold, silver, copper and iron. The composition has prevented the components from rusting. Zhou Guangji of the Gansu Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute says that the height and size of the tombs mark them as being unusually large, and that the discovery of this metal compound has advanced understanding of the history of ancient Chinese metallurgy.
GREAT WALL IN BEIJING LONGER THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT
On 29 November 2006, the team conducting a comprehensive survey of the Great Wall within the borders of Beijing municipality announced that it has already surveyed 629 km of the walls in the Pinggu, Huairou, Changping and Mentougou districts, as well as in Huairou county, taking in the best known sections of the Ming Great Wall known to the public. They have also surveyed 130 forts in these areas. The sections of the wall covered were found to be 20 km longer than revealed by earlier survey estimates. The Beijing Great Wall survey will be completed by 2008.
BRUCE LEE THEME PARK TO OPEN
In late November it was reported that a theme park devoted to Bruce Lee (1940-1973), the martial arts actor, is being constructed in his ancestral town of Shunde, Guangdong province. The theme park, which is being built over the next three years by the Hong Kong-based Bruce Lee Club, will house a statue of the actor, a memorial hall, a martial arts academy and a conference centre.
NEW RECORD PRICE FOR QING CERAMICS
A Qianlong period famille rose porcelain bowl featuring a swallow pattern sold for HKD151 million at Christie's Asian auctions in Hong Kong on 28 November 2006, setting a new record price for Qing dynasty ceramics. The bowl is one of a pair, the other one of which is in the collection of the Percival David Foundation in London.
PROSECUTION FOR GREAT WALL DAMAGE IN INNER MONGOLIA
Xinhua News Agency's Hohhot bureau reported on 29 November that after a 100-meter-long section of the Zhao great walls of the Warring States period was levelled wilfully by Baotao City Huiyuan Construction and Trading Company on land rented by that company, three men from the company have been held in detention. However, it is not clear whether they are subject to prosecution by the new Great Wall Protection Regulations which do not come into force until 1 December, unless the regulations which include penalties can be applied retroactively.
LARGEST QING ROYAL MANSION TO OPEN IN 2008
On 27 November it was reported that the 230-year-old Gong Wangfu (mansion of Prince Gong), an important example of the princely mansions or palaces (wangfu) in Beijing will open to the general public on the eve of the Olympics in 2008. Of the dozens of wangfu in old Beijing, Prince Gong's Mansion is one of the only extant examples that can be made accessible to the public. Although its ornamental garden was opened to the public in 1988, most other parts of the mansion have been occupied by offices and housing. Located near Houhai Lake, the original mansion comprises residential quarters covering 32,000 sq m and a 28,000 sq m garden. It was constructed around 1776 by the politically powerful eunuch Heshen as a private residence. The Xianfeng Emperor (r.1851-1861) later presented the mansion to Prince Gong, his brother.
GPS MAPS OF XINJIANG SITE
On 22 November 2006, the Administrative Bureau of Cultural Heritage of Xinjiang announced that a team of archaeologists and geologists had used high-tech equipment to prepare a preliminary survey map of the Miran site in Lop Nur, Xinjiang, and that this information would be correlated with satellite remote sensing to prepare accurate maps of the site by the end of this year.
ANCIENT TOMBS FOUND IN SHANGHAI
It was announced on 21 November 2006 by a spokesman for the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission that during construction of the Metro Line 9 at Xujiahui (Zikawei) and Huangpi roads in the Luwan district of Shanghai workers had discovered a tomb containing two couples interred during the Ming dynasty.
FLOODGATE MUSEUM FOR SHANGHAI
On 21 November, the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission announced that Shanghai was planning to construct a museum on the site of a Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) flood control gate that once controlled the outflow of Suzhou Creek to the ocean. The site was discovered in 2001 at the corner of Zhidan and Yanchang roads. Covering 1,600 sq m, the site has yielded more than 10,000 wooden pegs, 400 stone boards and several wooden pillars carved with inscriptions detailing the construction of the water-control works, the centrepiece of which is a stone sluice gate almost seven metres wide standing between two stone pillars. The museum is expected to be completed by 2010, and local cultural relics officials stated that the site will rival in size the museum housing the armies of terracotta warriors of Qin Shihuang outside Xi'an..
INSCRIBED BONES FOUND IN NINGXIA
An antiques collector in Yinchuan, identified only as Mr. Zhao, told local reporters on 22 November that he has discovered a number of ancient coins, as well as a batch of inscribed bone slips which he believes were once part of a military archive of the Eastern Han dynasty. He has found more than 100 bone slips, and the inscriptions on them range in length from four or five hundred characters to as few as several dozen. A related find is an ivory seal. Prior to the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, Ningxia was largely inhabited by nomadic people and little is known of its history.
MAWANGDUI APPLIES FOR HERITAGE LISTING
Mawangdui tombs nos. 1-3, excavated in 1972-74, represents one of the major excavations and discoveries in China. On 24 November, it was announced at a press conference unveiling a new plan for preserving the tombs and the finds that a draft proposal nominating Mawangdui as a World Heritage site had been prepared.
OWNERSHIP OF 100,000 NATIONAL TREASURES UNDER DISPUTE
On 9 November 2006, Nanjing's daily Yangzi wanbao (Yangtze evening news) reported on a long-buried dispute regarding the ownership of more than 100,000 antiquities which have been stored in 1,211 unopened crates in air-raid tunnels under Yeshan Mountain in Nanjing since 1937. The existence of the treasure trove came to light during research for a China Central Television documentary titled Guobao (National treasures), that traces the extraordinary epic of evacuating the relics housed in the Forbidden City in Beijing precipitated by the Japanese invasion of China. The first consignments of cultural relics left Beiping (Beijing) in February 1933 and were shipped initially to Nanjing. In 1936, they were consigned to what was then called the National Palace Museum in Nanjing, the Nationalist capital, which took receipt of a total of 19,650 crates. Most of the antiquities sent out of Beiping during the emergency years of the Japanese invasion eventually made their way back to Beiping or were taken by the retreating KMT armies to Taiwan. The ownership of this newly revealed and still sealed up cache, believed to contain mostly Ming and Qing dynasty ceramics and Buddhist votive objects, is now disputed because while they came from the Forbidden City they bear the seals of the Nationalist government's National Palace Museum in Nanjing, which is the forerunner of what is today called the Nanjing Bowuyuan (Nanjing Palace Museum), as distinct from the Nanjing Bowuguan (Nanjing Museum).
EXCAVATIONS PROCEED IN NILEK
On 9 November 2006, Ili News Web reported that Liu Xuetang of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute told a press conference that his institute had discovered nearly 100 graves, estimated to be between 2500 and 3000 years old, on Wutulan terrace in Nilek county, Ili-Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang. To date, the institute, in conjunction with the Ili Prefecture Cultural Relics Institute, has discovered a total of more than 600 graves on this and other terraces along the banks of the Kashi River. The discoveries at Wutulan will shed light on the people who once inhabited this part of the vast Eurasian steppe, tentatively identified as the Indo-Iranian Saka.
HAN DYNASTY CITY PLAN REVEALED
On 9 November 2006, Liu Qingzhu, chairman of the academic board and former head of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Shi Xingbang, head of the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeological Society, told a press conference that after more than five decades of excavations, archaeologists now had a clear picture of the layout and city plan of Chang'an, the capital city established by the Han dynasty more than 2200 years ago. The press conference came at the conclusion of a conference of archaeologists discussing the achievements of these excavations which were first conducted in October 1956. A full report on the conference appeared in the October 2006 issue of the journal Kaogu (Archaeology). A full report on the excavations, simply titled Han Chang'an cheng yizhi yanjiu and running to 670 pages, was also published by Cultural Relics Publishing House in October.
The Han dynasty capital occupied a site covering 36 sq km in what is now the north-western area of Xi'an. The walled city was divided into eleven major districts, crossed by eight arterial roads measuring between 45 and 55 m in width, and its outer city walls were pierced by twelve major gates. The imperial city is estimated to have had a population of 240,000, and with the addition of outer urban areas, the total population is reckoned to have been in excess of 1.2 million people. The walled precincts occupied by the imperial Weiyang Palace, situated within the capital, is estimated to have covered five square km, making it 0.7 sq km larger than the Ming-Qing Forbidden City in Beijing.
Following the most recent season of excavation which ran for three years, archaeologists announced on 25 September 2006 that they had uncovered the remains of what they describe as China's 'oldest timber bridge'. Much of the remaining structure is carbonised and incomplete, but it is estimated that the bridge was once 300m in length.
FIRST INTANGIBLE HERITAGE RESEARCH BASE
On 8 November 2006, Chongqing Municipality announced that it is the first provincial-level unit in China to establish a 'research base for intangible cultural heritage'. The base has more than ten research personnel and is located in Chongqing Wenli Xueyuan. The report stated that the establishment of the facility will assist in 'providing a systematic organisation for conducting conservation work'. Twelve items of intangible cultural heritage from Chongqing, including Chuanju (Sichuan opera) and Liangping wood-block New Year print making, are included on the national list of 518 intangible cultural heritage items released by the State Council earlier this year.
TCM COMES UNDER FIRE
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has had few critics in China until recently. In mid-2005 Shaolin Temple boxing and TCM were close contenders in applying for recognition and listing by UNESCO as China's world intangible cultural heritage property. Since then, the situation has changed dramatically. The abbot of Shaolin monastery has been discredited in the Chinese press for various improper dealings and Zhang Guangyao, a practitioner of TCM for more than three decades, recently issued an online petition calling for an outright ban on TCM. He alleges that TCM, which has grown into a USD10 billion per annum industry, is 'unscientific', frequently uses 'poisons and wastes' for cures, is not based on clinical practice, and poses a threat to certain plant and animal species. The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Ministry of Health have issued strong objections to Dr. Zhang's petition. Mao Qu'nan of the ministry said that Zhang is 'ignorant of history', adding that TCM was among the 'treasures of Chinese culture', as well as contributing to China's development. The State Administration of TCM, which is a government regulatory board for the profession, called for the end of 'the farce of repudiating TCM and going against our ancestors', and reiterated the government's determination to have TCM listed for World Intangible Heritage status. He Zuoxiu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who is a leading opponent of Falun Gong and other pseudo-scientific philosophies, joined in the recent debate, stating that TCM was 'backward'. In contrast to Western medicine, he said, TCM 'relies on metaphysical concepts', and although it has had remarkable successes, it is viewed as 'an accumulation of experiences', not a science.
OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED REPRODUCTIONS
Xinhua News Agency reported on 1 November 2006 that the Palace Museum has commissioned Huang Yunpeng, one of Jingdezhen's most prominent potters to reproduce more than 400 Qing dynasty porcelain antiques. Huang served for more than two decades as chief restorer at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Museum, and is now a director of the private Jia Yang Ceramic Studio. The Shanghai Museum was one of the first museums in China to market fine reproduction wares, and the Sackler Museum at Peking University has also sold quality reproductions of Song dynasty Jun ware pieces produced using the original technology. The spiralling costs of 'genuine' porcelain objects at Chinese auctions have created a new market vacuum that is being filled by fine reproduction wares, and the Palace Museum is the latest museum to tap into this lucrative retail market.
WESTERN HAN TUNNELS DISCOVERED
More than twenty underground passages connecting the women's apartments in the Western Han dynasty imperial palace complex in Chang'an, today's Xi'an, were discovered over recent months in the course of excavations at the Weiyang Palace complex, according to a press conference held at the end of October 2006 by Liu Qingzhu and Zhang Jianfeng of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Liu suggested that the existence of the tunnels under the women's apartments shows the importance of female participation in palace politics during the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE – 25 CE). A full report on Liu Qingzhu's views appeared in the 8 November 2006 issue of Beijing keji bao (Beijing sci-tech report).
SUN YAT-SEN SUIT AS NATIONAL HERITAGE
The 'Sun Yat-sen suit' (Zhongshan zhuang), better known these days as the 'Mao suit', has been nominated by an unnamed clothing manufacturer from Zhongshan city in Guangdong province as an item of Chinese intangible cultural heritage, according to a Chinese website on 30 October 2006.
GREAT WALL SURVEY
Tong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, announced on the government website www.gov.cn on 30 October 2006 that over the next two to three years SACH will oversee a 'large-scale' survey of the Great Wall using remote sensing, aerial archaeology and other technologies, working in conjunction with the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. Tong was participating in an interesting on-line discussion with netizens, answering questions related to the new protective legislation for the Great Wall and general issues related to its conservation.
CEREMONY OF ANCESTOR WORSHIP
Nearly 10,000 local and overseas Chinese attended a grand ceremony to worship what the media called 'the ancestors of the Chinese nation' at the Yandi (Fiery Emperor) mausoleum in Yanling county, Hunan province, on 30 October 2006. Together with Huangdi (Yellow Emperor), Yandi is described in legendary texts as one of the progenitors of Chinese civilisation.
LEGISLATION IN PLACE TO PROTECT GREAT WALL
On 24 October 2006, regulations, and more pertinently penalties, were announced for the first time protecting the Great Wall. The new regulations which come into force on 1 December 2006 ban graffiti, removing soil or bricks from wall structures, planting trees along the wall, driving vehicles onto the wall, installing facilities incompatible with Great Wall protection, exhibiting articles that might damage the wall, organising activities in off-limits sections of the Great Wall, erecting unauthorised structures or indulging in any other activities that result in destruction to the Great Wall. Those who cause serious damage to the Wall will be subject to criminal prosecution, with penalties for malicious damage that results in the destruction of State- or provincial-level 'cultural relics' ranging up to ten years' imprisonment. Fines for infringements can be as high as RMB 50,000 for individuals and RMB 500,000 for organisations.
The regulations remain unclear regarding rules governing commercial events, and Xinhua News Agency in an English language report cited Mike McGovern, 'an American golf pro who has lived n Beijing for a year', as commenting: 'I think there should be certain designated areas where people are allowed to hold parties and celebrations. Why can't people go visit the Wall and have a nice, enjoyable night out?'
WALLED TOWN REMAINS UNEARTHED IN INNER MONGOLIA
The Central Plains (Zhongyuan), a vaguely defined area roughly encompassing Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei and Henan, seems to be moving northwards in recent news reports. On 20 October 2006, Xinhua News Agency quoted 'the culture bureau of Inner Mongolia' as reporting the discovery in an unnamed location of the remains of 'a city, about 3,400 to 4,000 years old' and covering an area of '12,000 sq m'. This preliminary report cites a 'Central Plains' dating of the 'Xia dynasty (2100-1600 BCE)' to the site. The remainder of the brief news report is equally vague: 'Three quarters of the ruins have been unearthed. Experts have found the relics of 65 round residential houses, 49 cellars and 15 stone coffins. They also found some rock paintings with human-face patterns and pottery fragments with ancient characters'.
A MORE OPEN—AND COMMERCIAL—FORBIDDEN CITY
Li Ji, deputy curator of the Palace Museum, announced on 19 October 2006 to participants at the 2006 Sino-American Museum Forum that the museum intends to host more overseas exhibitions in future. The museum will host an exhibition from the British Museum in 2007, and exhibitions from the Louvre and the Russian State Hermitage Museum in 2008. Duan Yong, foreign affairs director of the museum, told that the forum, sponsored by SACH and the Mellon Foundation, that the Palace Museum is striving to join with these three museums, and the Metropolitan Museum, to become 'one of the world's five top museums'.
The opening of the restored garden of the Jianfu Gong (Palace of Established Happiness) within the grounds of the Forbidden City in May 2006, reserved for private functions only and closed to the general public, was a clear sign that the museum was looking to cultivate an exclusive group of trustees and patrons, as well as collectors and dealers, in a bid to be one of the Big 5. The garden fell into ruin after a fire razed the Palace of Established Happiness in 1923, rumoured to have been lit by eunuchs anxious to destroy the evidence of their pilfering prior to the compilation of an inventory of the palace's holdings by a group of curators sent in by the Republican government. A site in the Forbidden City has long been sought by international antiquities marketers for the prestige, and the ring of authenticity, the location provides. The Qianlong Emperor would be amused by these developments. He was fond of mischievously including the occasional forged object among displays for appreciation by his guests, in order to test their perspicacity.
The garden was listed as an endangered heritage site by American Express' World Monument Fund, and the restoration was financed by Rony Chan and his HK-based China Heritage Fund. The fund will also help finance the restoration of the Hall of Rectitude (Taihe Dian) complex. Another clear signal that the Palace Museum was moving into the commercial antiquities market was also provided by the September-October 2006 issue of the journal Forbidden City. Replete with ads for luxury cars and similar first-class cabin feed, the magazine's staple diet of articles documenting the palaces and the lives of the emperors who inhabited them was interspersed with details of international private collections and notes on contemporary art. Perhaps to forestall any rumours that the eunuchs are returning, Zheng Xinmiao, director of the Palace Museum and deputy-minister of culture, announced on 30 November that the museum was making available to the public for the first time a complete inventory of the 1.5 million 'cultural relics' (wenwu) in the museum's collection. He remarked that the list would include many objects not previously classified as 'cultural relics', curiously citing calligraphy and paintings by emperors and royal family members. However, it was clear from Zheng's remarks, that the list was still being compiled. Unlike the garden of the Palace of Established Happiness, Zheng stressed that the list would be available to the public.
STATE DEPARTMENT UPHOLDS COLLECTORS' LOBBY
In October 2006, it was announced that the US State Department had agreed to delay a decision on the request from the Chinese government to restrict imports of Chinese art and antiquities. China was hoping to enter into a bilateral treaty with the US of a type that the latter has already concluded with eleven other nations, including Italy and several key Latin American nations, from which stolen or looted antiquities flooded onto the US antiquity markets and thus entered public and private collections. The State Department decision surprised archaeologists, who see it is clear proof of the effectiveness of lobbying by auction houses, dealers in Asian art and curators at some the country's leading museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum.
SHANHAIGUAN APPEALS MENG JIANGNÜ DECISION
On 9 October 2006, Shanhaiguan hosted an investigative team examining its claim to be the home of the culture surrounding the legend of Meng Jiangnü, an intangible heritage cultural property successfully nominated and listed by Zibo city in Shandong province. The legendary widow, whose lamentations toppled part of the Great Wall built by Emperor Qin Shihuang, has many associations with Shanhaiguan which is the location of the major temple in China built in her honour. The Xinhua report made no mention of Shanhaiguan's rivals.
NOBLE'S TOMB FOUND IN CHANGSHA
A tomb, said to be larger than the spectacular Han dynasty Mawangdui tombs nos.1, 2 and 3 unearthed in 1972-74, has been discovered by archaeologists at Fengpengling in Changsha, Hunan province. Mawangdui tomb no.1 contained the well-preserved mummy of a noblewoman, as well as spectacular examples of Chu art. The newly found tomb has been robbed, probably in the Sui-Tang period.
Few details of the excavation were revealed, but He Xuhong, head of the Changsha Archaeology Institute, was quoted in a Xinhua News Agency report as saying that the tomb possibly belonged to 'the queen of an eminent Changsha king appointed by a Western Han dynasty emperor'. This assessment results from the discovery of the remains of a jade suit sewn with gold thread.
WARRIOR GRAVES FOUND IN CENTRAL CHINA
The discovery of a cemetery containing possibly as many as 500 tombs of soldiers of the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) at Wuligang hill in Tangyin county, Henan province, was announced by Xinhua News Agency on 16 October 2006. Preliminary excavations at the cemetery covering more than 200,000 sq m, had been conducted in 1982. The plain graves are aligned in rows and no funerary objects have been discovered to date.
DISCOVERY OF 4,500 YEAR OLD POTTERY WITH INSCRIPTIONS
On 19 October 2006, archaeologist Zhang Zhihua told reporters at the Pingliangtai site near Huaiyang city in Henan province that in May this year archaeologists there had unearthed a black pottery fragment, believed to be part of an ancient spinning whorl, which is incised with archaic Chinese characters similar to those that appear in oracle bone inscriptions. If the artefact is genuine and the dating of 4,500 years BP is correct, then this relic predates the inscribed oracle bones found at Yinxu by almost one and half millennia!
THE 'FORBIDDEN CITY' BRAND
On 10 October 2006, Li Wenru, deputy curator of the Palace Museum in Beijing, told a press conference that the museum, as exclusive owner of the brand names 'Palace Museum' (Gugong) and 'Forbidden City' (Zijincheng), which it registered between 1996 and 1998 with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce for 15 categories of goods and services, would begin taking action against some of the more than 100 companies that now use the names to designate their services and products, ranging from tour companies to noodles. The legal proceedings will themselves prove to be a challenge as most other users of the brand name had also succeeded in registering their products with the administration, which appears to have never instituted a central register of business names.
On the night of 6 October 2006, China celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival for the first time since the event was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage property. Many online websites, such as www.sina.com.cn, reported the news with a healthy measure of cynicism noting that 'commercialism seems to be winning out over culture'. On 6 October, it quoted Professor Qi Qingfu of the Central University of Nationalities in Beijing as saying that 'the bigger the moon-cakes get, the more the cultural significance of Mid-Autumn Festival diminishes'. Although, it should be noted that the government has introduced regulations curtailing the sale of luxury mooncakes.
ANCIENT SETTLEMENT REMAINS FOUND IN SHAANXI
On 5 November 2006, it was reported that archaeologists working at a Yangshao neolithic culture site in Linglong village near Baoji in Shaanxi province, have identified the remains of a number of dwellings that date back 6,000 years. The houses were spacious, covering nearly 200 sq m, and had walls that were between 8m and 10m thick. The houses were constructed above ground level, at variance with many earlier subterranean or semi-submerged dwellings, and were well drained. Yangshao culture is best known for its distinctive painted ware.
CATHOLIC CHURCH IN TIBET
Despite the well documented journeys in the 18th century of several papal representatives to Tibet, a Xinhua News Agency cultural report of 5 November 2006 described a Catholic church in Upper Yanjing on the Jinsha River in the Tibetan Autonomous Region as the region's oldest Catholic church. The church was founded in 1865 by a French priest, and it today boasts 740 parishioners. The church features small 'Gothic arches' and a three-storey bell tower. The church grounds served as a school during the Cultural Revolution, when the building also suffered damage to its ceiling murals, but it was partially restored in the late 1980s. Masses are now conducted twice daily, and three masses are held on weekends.
CHINA'S OLDEST ACADEMY CELEBRATES MILLENNIUM
On 3 October 2006, more than 1,000 teachers, students and graduates gathered at the Yuelu Academy, now located on the campus of Hunan University, to celebrate the 1,030th anniversary of the academy's founding. The academy is China's oldest surviving institution of learning. Work also began on the construction of a museum within the beautifully tended grounds of the hallowed academy, which still functions as an educational and publishing centre.
LESS THAN THIRTY PERCENT OF MING GREAT WALL REMAINS
In the wake of the announcement on 20 September 2006 that a draft regulation on protecting the Great Wall had been discussed and ratified in principle by the State Council, Dong Yaohui, deputy president of the China Great Wall Association and a staunch advocate of the wall's protection, told a press conference on 4 October 2006 that only 30% of the walls built during the Ming dynasty were still standing, and that only 20% of the remaining Ming great walls were 'adequately protected'.
LARGE-SCALE 'RELICS' SURVEY TO BE UNDERTAKEN
According to a report from Xinhua News Agency's Hangzhou bureau of 25 September 2006, only 17.5 per cent of China's 400,000 known historical heritage sites have been placed under government protection orders, according to Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH). He made the remarks when announcing that China would undertake a new nationwide survey of 'cultural relics' as part of the 11th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development. Previous national surveys were conducted in 1956 and 1981. [BGD]