As an important part of the Neolithic Age in Northern China, the
Hongshan Culture was discovered in 1935 and covers an area from the
valley of Chifeng, Inner Mongolia in the north to Chaoyang,
Lingyuan and the northern part of Hebei Province in the south, and
extends eastward to cover Tongliao and Jinzhou.
Hongshan Culture is characterized primarily by the ancient
painted potteries, the "Z"-stripped potteries and the unique
digging tools-stone spades and laurel leave-shaped two-holed stone
knives. The potteries of Hongshan Culture fall into two types-clay
potteries and sand-mixed potteries, both manually made.
The clay potteries are mostly red, usually in the forms of bowl,
basin, jar and pots, etc., most of which are containers with small
flat bottoms. Most of the clay potteries are decorated with black
or purple stripes arranged mainly in parallel lines, triangles,
scale-shaped patterns and occasionally in "Z"-shaped pressed
The stoneware of Hongshan Culture is made by grinding with the
blades of stone knives finely ground and the edges and backs in
curved symmetry, indicating a fairly developed agricultural economy
of the culture.
Within the area of Hongshan Culture, bones of oxen, lambs, pigs,
deer and river deer have been unearthed, though in small numbers.
The oxen, lambs and pigs, which are presumably domestic animals,
vaguely indicate that the early inhabitants of Hongshan Culture
lived a settled life supplemented by animal husbandry, fishery and
More than 20 cirrus-shaped jade articles have been unearthed at
the site of Hongshan Culture, and each of them represents two
fundamental themes-cirrus-shaped angles and minor convexities.
Combination of cirrus-shaped angles and minor convexities in
different ways constitute the various patterns and designs of the
cirrus-shaped jade articles of Hongshan Culture, which is best
demonstrated by the enormous blackish green jade dragon unearthed
at Sanxingtala Township of Wengniute Banner in 1971. The dragon is
26 cm in height with the head of a swine and the body of a serpent,
coiling like cirrus. Similar dragons were found later in Balin
Right Banner and the Antiques Store of Liaoning Province. These
cirrus-shaped jade articles can be classified into four types by
analyzing their patterns and designs: decorative articles, tools,
animals and special ones, of which the hoop-shaped articles are
among the typical pieces of the jade ware of Hongshan Culture. The
association of the shapes of these jade articles with their
cultural context indicates that the special articles and the tools
were made to meet the needs of religious ceremonies.
The discovery of cirrus-shaped jade dragon at Hongshan Culture
strongly suggests Inner Mongolia as one of the essential sites to
trace the worship for dragon by the Chinese people.
From the 1980s, religious relics of Hongshan Culture like the
"Goddess Temple" and stone-pile tombs have been found at
Dongshanzui of Kazuo County and Niuheliang at the juncture of
Lingyuan County and Jianping County of Liaoning Province. The
central part of Dongshanzui relics is the foundation of a
large-scaled square structure built of stone. The overall layout of
bilateral symmetry of the foundation to a south-north axis, which
is characteristic of the traditional Chinese architectural style,
is the first of its kind ever discovered at the site of Neolithic
Age. The pottery figures unearthed at the relics indicate that the
sites used to be places for sacrificial ceremonies or similar
In the first place, archeological studies show that Hongshan
Culture was developed on the basis of Xinglongwa Culture and
Zhaobaogou Culture, and the inheritance and development in
religious traditions between the three cultures are evident. No
sites devoted exclusively to sacrificial rites have been found so
far in Xinglongwa Culture and Zhaobaogou Culture. The discovery of
Niulianghe Relics in the 1970s indicates that large-scaled centers
for sacrificial rites had shown up by the end of Hongshan Culture.
This is not only a breakthrough in the study of Hongshan Culture,
but a discovery of great significance to the exploration of the
origin of the Chinese civilization.
Secondly, Hongshan Culture is credited with remarkable
achievements in architecture, pottery-making, jade-carving and
pottery sculptures which are at higher levels than those of
Xinglongwa Culture and Zhaobaogou Culture. The duet of square
pottery molds unearthed at the relics of a house of Hongshan
Culture at Xitai, Aohan Banner,whichis the earliest mold for metal
casting, shows that the early people of Hongshan Culture had
mastered the technology of bronze casting.
Next, hunting was in the dominant position in Xinglongwa Culture
and Zhaobaogou Culture, while by contrast, agriculture played an
essential role in the economy of Hongshan Culture.
Judging from the position of Hongshan Culture in the
archeological culture of ancient Northern China and China in the
Neolithic Age, we can well assume that Hongshan Culture is one of
the most advanced cultures among the ranks of its peers in both
southern and northern China at that time, when the smelting of
bronze had made appearance, the earliest cities surrounded by
ditches had shown up, and the division between urban and rural
areas had taken shape. Religious activities characterized by
worshiping dragon and jade and respecting the ancestors were in
vogue. The conflicts among social groups and the subsequent fights
for the unification of religious beliefs had become the fundamental
social issue. This is another proof to the assumption that the
people of Hongshan Culture had marched from the clan society into
the historical phase of ancient kingdoms.
Therefore, we can say that by laying a foundation for the
development of the Chinese civilization of five thousand years and
formulating and influencing the layout of the origin and the
progress of the protocol-dominating culture of China, Hongshan
Culture plays an extremely essential role in the evolution of the