Three Gorges Relics

Archaeologists have unearthed the largest and best preserved cultural ruins of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in the Three Gorges reservoir areas.

"They are the only cultural relics on such a large scale from the Tang Dynasty ever revealed in that area," said Li Yingfu, associate professor of the Department of Culture and History of Sichuan University, who is leading a team that will conduct an urgent excavation of cultural relics in the area.

The Mingyueba ruins, located on the southern bank of the Xiaojiang River where it meets the Yangtze River, cover an area of 150,000 square metres.

Li and his colleagues began the excavation two years ago and 13,000 square metres have been excavated since then. Archaeologists have discovered 20 buildings and 20 tombs of the Tang Dynasty.

They also found stone Buddha sculptures in the style of the late Tang Dynasty.

Almost all the buildings discovered in the Mingyueba ruins were made of stone, in the typical style of the Three Gorges area.

The Mingyueba ruins were listed as one of the top 10 archaeological discoveries in the Three Gorges reservoir in 2001.

Mingyueba will be flooded after the Three Gorges Project begins to store water next year. "We must finish the rescue work by the end of this year," Li said.

To rescue thousands of ancient cultural relics buried under the Three Gorges reservoir area and protect them, numerous archaeological teams have come here for rushed excavations, which will cost over 1 billion yuan (US$120 million).

According to historical records, there was an important saltworks operation in Yun'an County, 15 kilometres from Mingyueba. Experts confirmed the ruins used to be a salt distribution centre.

( China Daily April 4, 2002)