The Archaeology of Northeast China: Beyond the Great Wall

The Archaeology of Northeast China: Beyond the Great Wall

The Archaeology of Northeast China: Beyond the Great Wall

The Archaeology of Northeast China: Beyond the Great Wall


The Archaeology of Northeast China is an up-to-date synthesis of the archaeology and prehistory of the region called Dongbei by the Chinese, but known in the west as Manchuria. Based on recent archaeological discoveries, and fully illustrated, the book presents evidence to show that far from being a backwater palely reflecting the glories of central China, Manchuria in prehistory had both its own developmental trajectory, parallel to but different from that of China, and contributed to the formation of the characteristics of what came to be Chinese.New information on the Northeast region of China indicates that it was not populated exclusively by nomadic peoples, but that some of the earliest farming sites can be found here. The Hongshan culture with its Goddess Temple and female figurines is unique, with spectacular and unprecedented jade carving. Lower Xiajiadian culture has painted pottery that can be seen to be the forerunner to the magnificent Shang bronzes.Written by Chinese archaeologists working in the region, and introduced and edited by Sarah M. Nelson, who has worked extensively in East Asia, the book provides a firsthand account of recent developments made accessible to a Western audience.


Sarah M. Nelson

Although the Great Wall of China was not erected until well after the time period with which this book is concerned, it makes a convenient geographical demarcation familiar to most readers. The region with which this book is concerned is known in China as Dongbei—the northeast. Now entirely within the People’s Republic of China, the Dongbei is nearly identical to the territory which historically has been known as Manchuria. The Dongbei consists of three provinces: Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, to list them from south to north. This region is of interest for its contributions to the formation of China south of the Great Wall as well as its non-Chinese inhabitants, and its connections in the distant past with Siberia, Mongolia, and beyond.

Archaeologists from the Dongbei, whose papers are the heart of this book, believe that connections between Dongbei and central China are important to emphasize, hence they often focus on common themes, similar art motifs, and ceremonial commonalities between the two sides of the Great Wall. Time periods in the “historical” era (that is, beginning with the Shang dynasty) are given with reference to the central Chinese dynasties (e.g. Shang, Warring States) reinforcing the trend toward interpreting the northeastern area in terms of the present center. On the other hand, the contrasts between archaeological sites north and south of the Great Wall are another important theme—the archaeology of ethnic groups, or “nationalities” in Chinese parlance, beyond the Chinese frontier. In as much as the Dongbei was at times partly or completely outside the sphere of China proper (the Tianxia, or all under heaven) for much of the period covered by this book, as well as in recent historic periods, the region needs to be viewed from two perspectives—that of central China, and that of the “barbarians, ” non-Chinese people with external ethnic affiliations. Peoples in the Korean peninsula and Japanese islands also have had connections to the Dongbei at various times. Thus both Chinese antecedents and non-Chinese groups are represented in Dongbei archaeology.

In recent centuries, the vast territory of the Dongbei has been known as . . .

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