Archaeologists claim that they have found material evidence that China went through a "Jade Age" more than 5,000 years ago.
Guo Dashun, a leading member of the Archaeology Society of China, said their conclusion was based on the research results of many jade items unearthed at Niuheliang, a site of the Hongshan Culture dating back 5,500 to 6,000 years ago.
Guo said their conclusions would be written into a report summarizing the archaeological discoveries at Niuheliang over the past 20 years.
Located between the counties of Jianping and Lingyuan in northeast China's Liaoning province, the Niuheliang ruins cover 50square kilometers and have yielded prehistoric pottery and jade ware. Discoveries of the head of a "goddess of Hongshan," and an ancient kingdom ruins which consisted of altars, temples and tombs startled the world in 1984.
Chinese archaeologists have excavated 16 sites at the Niulheliang ruins of Hongshan Culture in the past two decades. During the excavation at the No. 16 site, in the southwest of the ruins, late last year, archaeologists unearthed six tombs of the Hongshan Culture period and more than 470 relics in an area of 1,575 square meters.
"The unearthed relics included 22 jade items such as carved figurines, phoenixes, dragons and other animals as well as other forms," said Guo.
He said that the items, pea green, pine green and milky white in color, were polished with stone tools with a level of skill comparable to that of today.
The items ware were not only of high artistic value, but also constituted an unusual era of the pre-history civilization of China, Guo acknowledged. "They are material evidence that proves the belief of a 'Jade Age' in China more than 5,000 years ago."
The idea of the "Jade Age" was put forward as early as 1982 by Sun Shoudao, a prestigious archeologist and a research fellow with the Liaoning Provincial Archaeological Research Institute, who headed the archaeological team excavating the Niuheliang ruins.
Based on research results of archaeological discoveries, he said a jade era existed between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age in China.
Meanwhile, Wen Guang, a noted research fellow with the China Geological Research Institute, has studied jade ware unearthed from Neolithic ruins across China, using microstructure investigation and optical determination methods.
Based on the research outcome and relevant historical documents, Wen also held that there was a jade era in China between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age.
Guo suggested a probe into the history of jade ware development in China, saying that it symbolized Chinese civilization.
The ancient Chinese used jade plates to imply personal moral character or to repose one's trust in something, noted Guo, and jade was made into different forms to represent the dignity, identity and social status of different people.
Jade was also used in sacrificial and ritual articles as well as funeral objects.
This concepts of using jade epitomized the development of and changes in the thinking and beliefs of the Chinese nation, Guo said.
To date, jade articles are still popular in China in the form of earrings, pendants and bracelets. And an increasing number of people in the country are taking to collecting and investing in jade articles.
(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2004)