Archaeological Discoveries
in 2001
Archaeological Discoveries
in 2000
Top Ten Archaeological Finds
for 1999
Archaeological Discoveries
in 1999

The Sui-Tang Grand Canal in Anhui

  At Liuziji in Suixi County, near Huaibei city in Anhui Province, two excavation sites covering an area of 900 square meters, a great deal of shipwreck remains of the Tang (618-709) and a stone wharf of the Song period (960-1279) were found on the south side of the Grand Canal--the most important water conservancy project running through from the north to the south of China. Also unearthed were a great amount of porcelain wares produced by various well-known kilns across the country and other cultural relics.
   The Grand Canal was a great water conservancy project in ancient China. It starts from Beijing in the north and extends to Hangzhou in the south, linking the Haihe River, Yellow River, Huaihe River, Yangtze River, and Qiantang River covering a distance of 1,794 km. Construction began in the 15 century B.C. (in the late Spring and Autumn Period), and two large-scale expansion projects were launched in the seventh century (the Sui period) and the 13th century (the Yuan period) to link up many dredged and renovated natural rivers. It was the main artery of communication of China during the period from the seventh century to the 13th century.
   The excavation site is located at Liuziji, a town first built in the Eastern Han (25-220), becoming an economic, military and cultural center during the Sui (581-618), Tang and Song periods.
   On May 4, 1999, the Institute of Archaeology of Anhui Province dispatched a team to excavate the relics and protect the site.
   After 200 days of hard work, a total area of 900 square meters was exposed, and eight sunken ships were discovered. Three of them were excavated. Two of the excavated ships were made of timber, with one, with a short bow, measured 12.6 meters including its rudder at the stern. Another ship, very skillfully built, is 23.6 meters long. Among them, the best preserved is a dugout canoe made from a whole trunk, 10.6 meters long. Judging from the analysis of the underground stratum of the river and the porcelain wares unearthed, specialists believe that the shipwrecks happened in a period not later than the Northern Song (960-1126).
   A stone wharf of the Song Dynasty was also discovered. It was built along the south bank of the canal in the form of a rectangle. Its top was partly destroyed. It measures 14.3 meters from east to west, and nine meters from south to north. Its north embankment is steep, with a remaining height of 5.5 meters. Specialists believe that it was a freighter wharf. This discovery provided evidence for the hypothesis of the reform of the canal communications system during the Tang and Song period. It verified that the original practice of shipping goods directly from the departure port to the terminal port had been replaced by shipment of goods through various transient wharves.
   A great amount of pottery wares, porcelain wares, iron articles, and bronze coins was also unearthed at the site. Most of the relics are porcelain wares, including porcelain articles produced by a dozen kilns across the country during the Tang and Song periods. Specialists hold that all these cultural relics from various places across the country provide convincing evidence for the function of the canal as a major hub of communications at the time, and that Liuziji was a key commercial town on the Grand Canal.
   This project contributed important and substantial materials to the study of the history of China's canal system, navigation and water conservancy projects, as well as the history of the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties. It also provided the latest and most important materials for the study of the politics, economy, culture, commerce and trade, tourism, and export of porcelain wares in ancient China.