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An Archaeological Interpretation of the Continuity of Chinese Civilization over Five Thousand Years

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.12, 2019

 

An Archaeological Interpretation of the Continuity of Chinese Civilization over Five Thousand Years

(Abstract)

 

Liu Qingzhu

 

In the history of world civilizations, Chinese civilization is distinguished by its unique features, most strikingly by its continuity over five thousand years. More than five thousand years ago, various “civilizations,” in the form of early theocracies, monarchies, etc. emerged in China’s vast land. Among the civilizations passed down through the generations was the Longshan culture of the Central Plains and the subsequent “kingly” or “imperial” pattern of states over the period ranging from the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, through Qin and Han, to the Yuan, Ming and Qing. This is explicable in terms of the basic continuity of Chinese “states,” “peoples” and “territories” over the past five thousand years, evident in the inheritance and development of “national culture” (or the “Great Tradition”), including walled capital cities, imperial mausoleums, ritual and ceremonial buildings and articles and the Chinese script, as well as the architectural layouts featuring “seeking the middle,” “three ways to one gate,” “a centrally located main hall,” “the ancestral temple on the left, the altar of soil and grain on the right,” the central axis of the walled city and the openings on each of the four sides of the city wall and the palace. Here one can see the reappearance in material form of such core conceptions as “the middle” and “harmony.” The material forms of this “continuous civilization” have accumulated over the past five thousand years, reflecting the strengthening and deepening of the concepts of “middle” and “harmony.” The continuity of China’s five thousand year old civilization is ideologically rooted in the concepts of “the middle” and “harmony,” which are the ideological basis of the national identity and the core values of the history of the Chinese people.