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Fragments of History: Zhougong Temple

According to the latest reports from the Zhougong Temple archeological team, they are busy piecing together the more than 700 fragments of oracle bones and inscribed tortoiseshell that have been recovered from the site.

The temple is located at the foot of Mount Fenghuang, in Qishan County of northwest China's Shaanxi Province. It was built in AD 618 to commemorate Zhougong, a lord of the Western Zhou Dynasty (c.1100-771 BC). The tombs found there are the richest of the dynasty so far discovered, and there has been speculation that they may be royal.

The Western Zhou is the only dynasty whose royal tombs have not been located, and since work on the Zhougong tombs began in October, they have attracted a lot of attention.

Zhougong's actual name was Ji Dan, and he was the fourth son of King Wenwang and a brother of King Wuwang. He helped Wuwang overthrow the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) and acted as regent for seven years before returning power to King Chengwang.

Xu Tianjin, a professor from Peking University's Department of Archaeology, said that excavation of tomb No.18 had been halted due to cold weather, but will begin again in March. It is hoped that it will reveal more about the true nature of the site's history.

Now their main work involves reassembling bone and tortoiseshell fragments, hundreds of which have been unearthed but, unlike those from the Yinxu Ruins, almost none of which are complete. Once they are pieced together, the inscriptions may divulge more detailed information.

Altogether more than 760 fragments from over twenty porcelain items had been concealed in tomb No.32, a huge amount that is hoped to give a rare insight into the era. Since porcelain ware is unusual in Western Zhou tombs, they are seen by experts as significant as bronze ware would be from other sites.

There is still disagreement about whether the porcelain artifacts were actually made in northern China or transported from the south. Xu believes they could prove that people in the north were capable of producing porcelain ware, because the yellow and green glazed items found have seldom been seen in contemporaneous southern sites.

(China.org.cn by Chen Lin, February 1, 2005)

Huge Archaeological Discovery at Zhougong Temple
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