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Qin Bamboo Slips Reveal Tujia Source
The discovery of bamboo slips dating from the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC) in Liye, Hunan Province, continues to create surprises. Archaeologists recently claimed that the unearthing of Liye ancient town and Qin bamboo slips provide evidence that the Tujia ethnic group originated from a more northerly location than previously believed.

Experts in ethnic group sources believed that the Tujia minority group in Wuling and Xiangxi (western Hunan) might have come from Sichuan or Jiangxi province.

Liye ancient town is believed to be a frontier military and political center expanding from the administrative power in the north, which belonged to the Qin State. That’s why most bamboo slips recorded information about “Dongting Prefecture,” a border area within Qin’s power sphere. The present Hunan and Hubei provinces were then divided from Dongting Prefecture. However, the “Qianzhong (literally meaning central Sichuan) Prefecture” was not under Qin rule, but another military and political center set up later to exert influence in the barbarous wilderness in the south. So, the Sichuan origin saying seems unreliable now.

The bamboo slips show that Qianling was in Longshan in ancient times, but now it is a town in Baojing County of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture, which is farther south than Longshan. Experts say this was the result of Qin conquering Chu, which signified the ancient powerful state pushing southward.

The military functions of Liye ancient town went through two great political turbulences. One was in the 7th century BC, when Qin, Chu and Ba states formed an alliance to destroy Yong. Liye had not taken shape at that time, but it must have been a forward post for Yong troops. The other was in the 3rd century BC, when Qin united the whole China. Generally speaking, battles in the plains were easily settled. But in mountainous and riverside areas, geographical conditions became complicated and protracted warfare occurred. The construction of Liye emerged from Qin’s political need to rule the border people in Wuling Mountain.

The southward migration of Yong people was not a trivial thing in Chinese history, which is related to the structure of Tujia ethnic group. The excavation this time is a key part in understanding Tujia’s source.

(China.org.cn by Li Jinhui, August 12, 2002)

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