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Later Chinese texts associate jade with immortality and purity because of its durability and translucency.
The discovery of Neolithic jades in a funerary context signals that the Chinese reverence for jade, which persists even today, originated in remote antiquity.
(Prehistoric cultures are named for the village or site where certain types of objects were first excavated; that name is then applied to other sites where archaeologists uncovered similar cultural remains.)Far to the northeast, in the Manchurian hills, archaeologists have uncovered traces of a ceremonial center at Niuheliang associated with the Hongshan culture (4700-2920 B. The remains include foundations of one of the earliest temples built in China, as well as clay fragments of statues, perhaps representing goddesses, that were twice or even three times life-size. 10), found in 1984 on the chest of the deceased, is so called because the earliest known Chinese character for "dragon" depicts just such a coiled body attached to an animal head.
Excavations in a nearby cemetery have brought to light more than sixty tombs made of stone and covered with stone mounds. In this case, the large snout suggests that the animal derived from a pig, a staple of the Neolithic economy.
Chinese history has traditionally been viewed as a succession of dynastic rulers whose culture was the radiating source for the entire country.
Recent excavations at sites outside the Shang sphere of influence, however, reveal that Bronze Age civilization was more varied and complex than had been thought.
Most of the bronzes would have been used in life, but some were probably made specifically for the grave.
Inscriptions cast into the walls of the vessels show that they were intended for ritual offerings of food and wine to the spirits of ancestors.
The many objects from Fu Hao's tomb in the exhibition include a wine container in the shape of a horned owl (no. It exemplifies the skill of Shang bronzecasters at transforming functional objects into works of sculpture.
The pits were not graves, as they contain no trace of human skeletons.
The fact that many of the objects had been burned before burial suggests that they could have been offerings to deities or ancestral spirits.
A flask from the Banpo phase of the Yangshao culture combines one of the earliest human images in Chinese art with an elegantly abstract pattern that signals a new aesthetic sensibility (no. Mysterious symbols on a large urn from the Dawenkou culture (no.
23) may be a form of picture-writing, indicating that the origins of Chinese writing reach back to the early third millennium.
For thousands of years, Chinese collectors have treasured antiquities both for their beauty and as venerable relics of the past.