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An Archaeological Interpretation of Chinese Civilization

LIU QINGZHU | 2022-09-01 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

Engels proposed that the country is an epitome of civilized society. The materialization carrier of the country is concentrated in the continuity of civilization formed by the concepts of citizen, territory, and national identity.
An archaeological interpretation of continuity 
The Chinese have continued to live and multiply in the land of China for more than 5,000 years, which has been confirmed by archaeological discoveries and historical documents. According to recent genetic studies, the genes of most people in China are similar to those of people in the middle reaches of the Yellow River Basin more than 5,000 years ago. From the perspective of surname culture, China is the first country to have surnames in the world. Among Chinese surnames, 99% originated from the Yan-Huang [the name of two tribes led by the Flame Emperor and the Yellow Emperor, who were believed to be the initiators of Chinese culture] surname system. Therefore, the Chinese people have called themselves descendants of the Emperor Yan [the Flame Emperor] and Emperor Huang [the Yellow Emperor] since ancient times. In the history of Chinese civilization for more than 5,000 years, Emperor Huang has been recognized by rulers and the public from different Chinese tribes, areas, and times as the earliest ancestor of Chinese culture, in other words, the Father of China.
As early as more than 6,000 years ago, the Chinese ancestors of the Miaodigou Culture had an archaeological cultural distribution north to the Great Wall area, south to the Yangtze River, west to today’s Gansu Province and Qinghai Province, and east to southwest of today’s Shandong Province. With the development of history, the national territory in the Qin (221–207 BCE) and Han (202 BCE–220 CE) dynasties was basically similar to the contemporary Chinese territory, which was also unique to Chinese civilization in world history.
Civilization, that is, the continuation of Chinese national history, depends mainly on the national adherence to the concept of national identity, and its specific materialization carrier is reflected in the fact that the national capital must be centered. This comes from the archaeological discovery that the capital cities were chosen from the central areas of China in past dynasties, just as the saying goes, those ancient emperors chose the central areas of the world to establish the country. What is embodied in the concept of “Center” is fairness, impartiality, and justice to the world, which is the centralized embodiment of the political philosophy of “harmonious integration” of ancient Chinese political culture. They could be attributed to the more than 5,000 years of internal and external continuity and inclusiveness of Chinese civilization.
Inclusiveness of the multi-ethnic unified country
The vitality of the continuity of more than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization rests with the concept of “greatness lies in the capacity” for the country and its people. China has been a multi-ethnic country since ancient times with increasing members as the history develops. However, no matter which ethnic group serves as the leader of the country, they are all considered to be political entities belonging to the Chinese civilization.
The external continuity is represented by the Silk Road of Chinese culture which acts as the road of friendship and cooperation between China and the world, rather than the colonial era brought to world history by the Age of Discovery of the West. The Silk Road has witnessed the open mindset of the “greatness lies in the capacity” of Chinese civilization in national relations.
Liu Qingzhu is a CASS member and a research fellow from the Institute of Archaeology at CASS. This article was edited from his paper submitted to the forum.