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Zhouyuan Site

The Zhouyuan Site is located in the north Guanzhong Plain in Shaanxi Province and stretches eastward to Wugong and westward to Baoji, across most part of Fufeng and Qishan counties.

Leaning on Qishan Mountain in the north, and close to the Weishui River in the south, the area is like a high mount that is 900 meters above sea level. According to historical record, this area was the origin of the Zhou people and the capital site of the Zhou State before it conquered the Shang Dynasty (17th-- 11th century BC). From the late 12th century BC to the early 11th century BC, the leader of Zhou led the clansmen here and began to build the city into their capital. In the later period of 11th century BC, King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty moved the capital to Fengdu, while Zhouyuan City remained an important political center. In the late Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century -- 771 BC), the city was captured by the West Rong tribe and abandoned since then.

Since 1976, large-scale excavations have been carried out at the site by the Shaanxi provincial cultural relic administrative committee, the Archaeology Department of the Peking University, and the Archaeology Department of the Northwest University. Archaeologists have made great achievements that shocked the historiography circle. The palace site, or probably the temple site, is distributed in Fengchu of Qishan County and Zhaochen of Fufeng County. 

The construction foundation in Fengchu is situated on a tampered-earth base 32.5 meters wide from east to west, 43.5 meters long from south to north, and 1.3 meters high. With the gateway, the front hall and the back hall built on the axis line, the building had 8 wing-rooms on each side that were connected by corridors and formed a close compound. The front hall was the main construction that was 17.2 metes long from east to west and 6.1 meters wide from south to north. Judged from the pole holes dug on the base, the front hall was 6 bays long and 3 bays wide. Pottery water pipes built around the foundation provided a perfect drainage system.

Fifteen construction foundations, big or small, were found in Zhaochen. These were probably residences of nobles. The largest one was 24 metes long from east to west and 15 meters wide from south to north, with various tiles covering the roof. These tiles, decorated with various patterns, were earliest ones that have been found in China. 

A number of workshop sites were found in the site, including bone ware-making workshop in the south Yuntang Village, pottery workshop in the east Qijia Village, and copper- casting workshop in the east Qi Town. Among these large-scale workshops, the bone-making workshop in Yuntang Village was the largest one. Rich relics made of stone, bone, half-processed products and various tools unearthed in the site indicated the systematic production in a large scale.

In the caves at the Fengchu construction site, 170,000 pieces of animal bone and tortoise shell used to practise divination were unearthed in 1977, mainly tortoise shells. Over 200 tortoise shells had oracle inscription, with the most one had 30 words. Qijia Village of Fufeng County also saw the discovering of 5 tortoise shells with inscription in 1979. The inscription described the relation between Zhou people and the Shang Dynasty with neighboring states. The inscription of the Zhou Dynasty was written in a small and fine style and carved on tortoise shells with skilled technique. This provided valuable data for the study of the Zhou history. 

The greatest discovery in the Zhouyuan Site was the excavation of a large number of bronze wares stored in cellars. Wares with such a long history and in such a huge amount were seldom found elsewhere. Important discoveries in the site were made in the Western Han (206BC-8AD), Tang (618-907), and Song (960-1279) Dynasties. During the reign of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a number of famous copper wares were unearthed here, such as the a broad-mouthed tripod caldron, Dafeng gui (gui is a round-mouthed food vessel with two or four loop handles), and Maogong tripod caldron. During the last 80 years of the 20th century, over 30 cellars were unearthed, with over 1,000 copper wares. In a cellar unearthed in Dongjia Village in 1975, 37 copper wares were excavated. The inscription carved on the unearthed tripod caldrons and hes (he is a kind of ancient utensil) described expeditions, renting of lands and lawsuits of the mid Western Zhou period, indicating the emergence of feudal system in the Western Zhou society.

In a cellar in Baicun Village, 103 copper wares were unearthed in 1974. This is the largest number of copper wares unearthed in a cellar since the foundation of new China. This is also a group of bronze wares of the greatest research value, among which 74 have inscriptions, with the least one has 1 character and the most one 284 characters, providing valuable data for the study of Weishi Family of the Zhou Dynasty.

The Zhouyuan Site is an underground treasure house with rich cultural relics. Along with the development of excavation work, more and more valuable cultural relics will be unearthed at the site.

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