Exploring Chinese Civilization

A far-reaching archaeological project will be launched within five years to find the origin of ancient Chinese civilization, Xinhua news agency reported.

Researchers will try to find answers to such questions as whether Huangdi and Yandi, two legendary ancestors of the Chinese nation, really existed. They will also try to determine whether there were any Chinese characters older than the inscriptions on animal bones and tortoise shells discovered in the famous Yin Ruins, which date back more than 3,000 years.

"Why Chinese civilization lasted for 5,000 years, while other ancient civilizations fell into oblivion no matter how brilliant they had been," is a question that needs to be answered, said Li Xueqin, director of the Institute of History under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The origin, development process, context and mechanism of ancient Chinese civilization are the most important subjects that archaeology should explain," Li said.

A research center for ancient civilizations was recently set up under the academy, and more than 200 researchers from China, the United States, Britain, Germany, France and other countries have been invited to take part in the project.

In order to study the origin and development process of the Chinese nation, archaeologists will extract genes from the remains of ancients that were found in the areas which were occupied by Huangdi and Yandi tribes 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, Xinhua said.

The genes will be compared with genes extracted from people's remains of the Qin and Han dynasties (about 1,000 years ago), and from people living in various regions of China today.

Wang Wei, deputy director of the newly founded research center, said the project will be focused on the period from BC 3,000 to

BC 221.

The primarily selected subjects include culture and society of the period of Huangdi and Yandi, origin of Chinese characters, ancient environmental change of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties

(BC 2070 to BC 220), origin of agriculture and animal husbandry, and development of the handicraft industry.

(Eastday.com 04/03/2001)