Chinese archaeologists recently discovered a unique, ancient city which has lain covered by desert sands for more than 1,000 years.
It is the first ruined city of the Xiongnu (Huns) ever found, said Dai Yingxin, a well-known Chinese archaeologist. The Xiongnu was a nomadic ethnic group, who for 10 centuries were tremendously influential in northern China.
The unearthed city occupies 1 square kilometre in Jingbian County, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, adjacent to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north of the country.
It is believed that the city was built by more than 100,000 Xiongnu people in AD 419. Named "Tongwancheng," which means "to unify all countries," the city is composed of three parts: the palace walls, the inner city and the outer city. Watchtowers stand at the four corners of the complex.
The 16 to 30 metre thick city walls are made with sand and white-powdered earth, mixed with glutinous rice water. This intriguing concoction made the earthen walls as hard as those made from stone.
From a distance, the white city looks like a giant ship. The southwestern turret, the highest of the four, is 31 metres high and resembles a ship's mast. The ruined city is now fenced with brush-wood, trees and grass.
"It is the most substantial, magnificent and well-preserved city to be built by any ethnic group in the history of China," said Zhu Shiguang, president of the China Ancient City Society.
Tongwancheng used to be a prosperous city on the upper reach of the Wuding River, a major tributary of the Yellow River. It remained the political, economic and military centre of the southern Ordos Plateau for over five centuries. It was as the river continued to dry up, that the ancient city was buried by moving sands, said Xing Fulai, a research fellow at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.
Its discovery provides vital information for the study of the Xiongnu tribesmen, who have, to date, remained a mystery to both Chinese and foreign archaeologists because of a lack of adequate historical material and evidence relating to their culture.
Xing said the city ruins will be considered for world heritage status by UNESCO.
( China Daily Oct 8, 2002)