“Oriental Pompeii” Scheduled to Reappear

2020-03-23 15:29:49

Reporters: Zhao Jinfei & Zheng Yuxuan

More than 60 years ago, Chengcun (City Village) located in Mount Wuyi was hidden from the public’s view. This ancient village built in the Sui and Tang Dynasties has been known as “GuYue”. Could the urban village be related to “GuYue” which is the ancient Yue State? Why does the village name contain the word “Cheng (city)”? This was an unsolved puzzle.

During the first national census of cultural relics in 1958, Chengcun Ancient City Ruins of Han Dynasty, located in the southeast of the village, solved the mystery. The town was surrounded by mountains and waters, spanning over the stretch of three hills, and its design was based on the lines of the hills, with tall peaks of Mount Wuyi in the west, and with the hummocks, mounds and hills enveloping the site on both sides from the north and the south. With the Chongyang Creek flowing downstream from the mountains, the town site had alluvial plains on the east and north sides which offered fertile farmlands of thousands of hectares. The Yue State people in Fujian skillfully took advantage of the natural topography to create a strongly fortified town with the rivers as the moat and the mountains as the walls.

As the main item of Wuyishan City’s application for the inclusion into the list of World Cultural Heritage as well as the List of World Natural Heritage, in 1999, after a field inspection and acceptance of the Chengcun Site of the Han Dynasty Town, the UNESCO World Heritage delegation called it “China's Pompeii” approvingly and considered it to be “the best-preserved site of Han Dynasty town in the Pacific Rim region, a typical representative of ancient cities of southern China, which occupies  an important position in the history of architecture in China and the world.”

According to historical records, from the early to the middle period of the Western Han Dynasty, the Minyue State gradually developed from a vassal state of the Yue nationality with a weak military power to a stronger military separatist regime. During the archaeological excavation of the Chengcun Site of Han Dynasty Town, many pieces of weapons and armors, mainly made of iron, from the Minyue State were unearthed, which included swords, spears, halberds, knives, daggers, arrowheads, among other things. These were very advanced weapons and equipment at that time and were made for local warfare on waters and in mountains. From the perspective of archaeological discoveries, experts have determined that among the main weapons of the Minyue State, iron weapons had basically replaced bronze weapons, and military weapons and equipment had become more sophisticated and not inferior in any aspect to that of the Central Plains.

During the Qin and Han Dynasties, the Han people were the first to enter the Iron Age. Thanks to the close political, economic, military, and cultural exchanges, Minyue culture had continuously merged with Han culture. On the eastern slope of Yuanbao Hill, 500 meters away from the town site, many ironwares, pottery products, and stonewares of the Han Dynasty were unearthed, and these weapons, instruments of production and living utensils had adopted iron casting in their making process. Based on the local architectural remains and surface residues, it can be preliminarily determined that iron-smelting workshops existed at that time. Among the hundreds of iron tools unearthed in succession, many iron weapons and tools were already products of forged steel. This reflected the highly developed iron smelting and steel forging technology of the Minyue State.

In 2002, archaeologists discovered a large tomb of the nobility of the period of the Minyue State atop the Niushan Hill, 3 km north of the Chengcun Site of Han Dynasty Town, and named it the “Nushan No.1 Han Tomb”. The tomb occupies a whole hilltop with a large distance from the foot of the hill, overlooking the Site of Han Dynasty Town from far away. The overall tomb is “甲”-shaped (a Chinese character), and the coffin chamber is herringbone-shaped. The tomb, according to records, is the largest Han tomb discovered so far in Fujian Province.

The shape of this tomb is the same as the mausoleum of the King of Yue discovered in Mount Yin of Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, and they are both herringbone-shaped tombs, thus confirming the historical fact that the King of Yue State in Fujian was a descendant of King Goujian of the Yue in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty as recorded in the Records of the Grand Historian. The funerary objects unearthed in the tomb are similar in style to the cultural relics unearthed in the Chengcun Site of Han Dynasty Town, and there are densely distributed medium-sized aristocratic tomb clusters in areas such as Shezishan Hill, Tingzihou, Futou Hill and Niulanhou which are 3 kilometers away from the surrounding sites. Researchers believe that the Nushan No.1 Han Tomb is a royal tomb in the period of the Yue State in Fujian, and the owner of the tomb might be the supreme ruler of the Han Dynasty town.

In 2001, the Fujian Provincial Government specifically approved the establishment of the Fujian Minyue State Capital Site Museum, which is responsible for the archaeology, research, protection, and management of the Chengcun Site of Han Dynasty Town. “At present, the Chengcun Site of Han Dynasty Town is included in the list of the second batch of national archaeological parks, and the integration of culture and tourism will be our future priority,” said Lu Sheng’en, Head of the Fujian Minyue State Capital Site Museum. Under the premise of protection, the site has been actively integrated into the Mount Wuyi city-wide tourism development plan, and tourism programs such as study tours, experience tours and leisure tourism have been launched.

As a symbol of the integrated development of culture and tourism in the Mount Wuyi, the construction of the National Archaeological Park for Chengcun Site of Han Dynasty Town is about to commence. In the future, the ancient charms of the “Oriental Pompeii” will be reproduced by improving the surrounding environment and landscape of the Chengcun Site in the Han Dynasty Town and the Minyue State Capital Museum.