Archaeology shows that Chinese ancestors were living and raising their families in Hong Kong as early as 6,000 years ago.
Dongwan is a 6,000 year old Neolithic site situated southwest of Dayu Mountain in Hong Kong. Excavated in 1987 it produced over 100 stone tools, large quantities of earthenware and the foundations of a house.
The chipped stone implements that characterize the early stage of the Dongwan culture represent a significant link to Southeast Asia's stone-working traditions. In the later period, the appearance of millstones and polished hand-axes together with grinding and carving implements added variety to Dongwan's inventory of stone tools. This development in the production of tool making went hand in hand with the advances in people's material well-being, which were taking place at the time.
The handmade Dongwan earthenware comprising plain, coarse pottery together with fine but fragile soft pottery, firmly links this local culture with south China's other Neolithic cultures. Connections can be seen both in the shape of the utensils and in the decorative patterns applied.
In the latter half of 1997 archaeologists from the mainland and Hong Kong jointly launched an extensive excavation project at Dongwanzai, Mawan. There they discovered many cultural relics. Of these the discovery of a prehistoric cemetery with 20 tombs has been selected by the State Cultural Relics Bureau as one of the "Top Ten Archaeological Finds of 1997."
The 1999 excavation of a stone-age workshop occupying an area of some 200 square meters in Xigong produced hundreds of flakes, scrappers, stone rings and burins as well as polished stone implements including adzes and shovels. They cast a light on the techniques of stone tool manufacture adopted by Hong Kong's Neolithic ancestors.
Archaeology shows gradually strengthening cultural links between the mainland and Hong Kong. Finds of large numbers of bronze weapons such as knives, arrowheads and dagger-axes together with less warlike bronze implements like axes and fishhooks demonstrate that the bronze-casting technology developed in the mainland was introduced into Hong Kong around 1500 BC.
Between November and December of 1990 the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University undertook a joint excavation at Dawan site on Nanya Isle. They unearthed 10 tombs containing many funerary objects such as stone implements, pottery, bronze ware and jade articles. Among the jade artifacts discovered, one item in particular, a jade tablet was to attract wide attention. The only one to be found in south China, it is of a type used as a ceremonial, sacrificial item by Bronze Age people in the Central Plains. This is the name given to the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River comprising most of today's Henan Province and parts of Shandong, Hebei and Shanxi provinces. The discovery of the jade tablet beside the South China Sea shows that at least 3,000 years ago, Hong Kong had connections with a mainland region over a thousand miles away.
After Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), unified China in 221 BC, Hong Kong was incorporated into Panyu County, Nanhai Prefecture. Since then, more and more people from the mainland have moved to Hong Kong, not only offering their labor but bringing advanced production technology and culture with them. The incomers served to promote the development of Hong Kong's economy and society. This can be evidenced by the coins of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) which have come from excavations throughout Hong Kong.
The 1955 discovery of a well-preserved brick tomb in Kowloon has connected Hong Kong's pre-Qin and post-Han history and revealed the uninterrupted continuity of an advanced culture matching that of the mainland. The Kowloon tomb has been dated back to the early and middle period of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) and showed a structure, grave bricks and burial articles all in the Han style.
Songwangtai inscriptions near Hong Kong International Airport, Song stone engravings at Tianhou Temple as well as the many discoveries of Song coins and celadon ware tell of the fall of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and the southward deployment of troops of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).
Excavated china ware of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) proves that Hong Kong had become an important thoroughfare for trade between China's mainland and Southeast Asia as well as with Western countries by the beginning of the 16th century.
As the years passed a unique cultural panorama evolved in Hong Kong. That it is founded in a longstanding inter-relationship with mainland Chinese culture is well demonstrated by discoveries from Neolithic sites to Han graves together with cultural relics from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Modern times have seen it absorb what it wished of western culture and emerge as a truly international metropolis of the 20th century and beyond.
(China.org.cn, translated by Shao Da, April 8, 2003)