Bolstering Cultural Self-Confidence
All of a nation's pursuits are anchored in its history. The 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization serves as an inexhaustible fountain of energy for the Chinese people and the source of our confidence and pride as a nation.
The magnificent and diverse tapestry of Chinese civilization
Even the highest trees grow from roots, and even the longest rivers flow from a source. So where are the roots of Chinese nation, and what is its source? How did the Chinese civilization come to be, and how has the thread of its history reached today?
Many major discoveries about the origins of the Chinese nation and civilization have been made since the birth of modern archaeology in China. Some examples are the Yangshao site in Mianchi, the ruins of Yin in Anyang, the Banpo site in Xi'an, the Dawenkou site in Tai'an, the Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of Qin, the Mawangdui tomb in Changsha, the Hemudu site in Yuyao, the Liangzhu site in Yuhang, the Erlitou site in Yanshi, the Sanxingdui site in Guanghan, the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng in Suixian, the Taosi site in Xiangfen, the Shimao site in Shenmu, the Shijiahe site in Tianmen, the Shangshan site in Pujiang, the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun in Nanchang, and many more.
These achievements have traced the path of history, increased its reliability, enriched its meaning, and brought it to life.
Illustrating the origins of Chinese civilization and the historical path of its development
The birth of civilizations and the emergence of nations are among the most important events in human history. International scholars have focused on this topic for some time, putting forward many concepts and theories. However, for a considerable length of time, there was a dearth of data and a lack of systematic understanding on the origins and early development of ancient Eastern civilizations represented by China. Through constant advancement of archaeological work in China, the veil of mystery that shrouded the country's ancient history and prehistory has gradually been lifted. Archaeological discoveries have proven that China's history includes millions of years of humanity, 10,000 years of culture, and 5,000 years of civilization. Making frequent use of the words "earliest" and "most," President Xi Jinping has illuminated the great significance of the latest archaeological achievements: our country is the cradle of humanity in the East, and along with Africa is where the earliest humans originated. The Peking Man had the ability to make fire 500,000 years ago, one of the earliest examples of this in the world. As early as 10,000 years ago, our forebears were planting millet and rice, meaning that agriculture appeared here around the same time as it did in West Asia and North Africa. Chinese inventions such as musical instruments and dugout canoes, as well as discoveries in fields including hydraulic engineering and astronomy were also among the earliest in the world. In addition, China's archaeological efforts have illustrated the processes of how civilizations began and developed in different regions and how the Chinese nation and civilization grew into a pattern of unity amidst diversity, and also highlighted the values that the survival and development of Chinese society depends upon and the elements of our cultural heritage that we unconsciously engage with every day. In the words of President Xi, "These great achievements have provided the materials for us to study the history of Chinese civilization more effectively and to shape the historical understanding of our entire nation, and they are therefore extremely important in political, cultural, social, and historical terms."
Exhibiting the glorious achievements of Chinese civilization
Archeologists have made some of the following discoveries about China: 13,000 years ago, pottery was invented; 10,000 years ago, the world's earliest rice and millet crops were planted; 9,000 years ago, jade ware was produced; 8,000 years ago, symbols were carved on bones and tortoise shells, animals were domesticated, alcoholic beverages were invented, the art of lacquer was developed, silk was harvested by raising silkworms, and herbal medicine was used; 7,000 years ago, the wheel and axle was invented; 6,000 years ago, ceramics fired at high temperatures were made; 5,000 years ago, the state emerged; and 4,000 years ago, metallurgy was mastered. These discoveries provide ample evidence that China was a frontrunner in every period of development of the ancient world, from the Neolithic Age, to the Bronze Age, to the Iron Age, with impressive achievements in a range of fields including agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine, astronomy and geography, tool making, scientific and technological advancement, state governance, and art and culture. President Xi has pointed out, "These great achievements have put the Chinese nation's enterprising and pioneering spirit of innovation, advancement, and self-improvement on display. They contain a limitless wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and art, and are an important wellspring of firmer confidence in our culture."
Revealing the Chinese civilization's great contributions to the world
China is the only civilization in the world that has carried on unbroken from ancient times to the present. Over its long history, China was able to interact with other world civilizations through various channels, including the westward spread of millet, the eastward spread of wheat and metallurgy, and the Silk Road, and in the process they engaged in reciprocal exchanges and learned from each other. China shared its profound system of thought, its abundant achievements in science, technology, culture, and art, and its unique institutional innovations with the world, thereby providing a vigorous push to the progress of human civilization. On the "Four Great Inventions" (the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing), as well as distinctly original innovations like lacquerware, silk, and porcelain, President Xi said, "These great achievements have illustrated the outstanding contributions that China has made to the progress of human civilization over the course of its long history, and exhibited the Chinese nation's peaceful disposition, its inclusive character, and its view of the world as one big family."
President Xi has said, "The essence of our confidence in our path, theories, and system is confidence in our culture, which is based upon China's more than 5,000 years of heritage." China's archeological efforts have, from their inception, borne the heavy responsibility of exploring our country's long history and boosting confidence in our nation. For many years, archaeological discoveries have consistently dispelled doubts through mountains of evidence and verified that the Chinese civilization is in fact more than 5,000 years old. These efforts have thus provided support in the form of historical and scientific evidence for boosting the Chinese nation's cultural self-confidence.
The water conservancy works at Laohu Hill on the outskirts of the ancient city of Liangzhu, Yuhang, Zhejiang Province. This is the oldest large-scale water conservancy site discovered in China to date, as well as one of the world's oldest known dam systems. Built around 5,000 years ago, Liangzhu is an example of early urban civilization. The site's discovery was a major archaeological achievement, which proved to the world that Chinese civilization has a history stretching back five millennia. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER WENG XINYANG
Carrying forward our great national spirit and the best of our traditional culture
In late 2017, a television program exploring traditional Chinese culture called "National Treasure" became an overnight sensation. It comprehensively discussed the cultural background of several famous museums, the stories of numerous precious artifacts, and the historical footprints of many examples of cultural heritage, bringing national treasures that had lain in obscurity for years in museums to life. Since the program aired, a number of other shows such as "Every Treasure Tells a Story," activities such as "Meet at the Museum," and platforms such as online and digital exhibits have emerged. These new mediums for presenting cultural artifacts have promoted China's traditional culture and fostered core socialist values, bringing the once obscure discipline of archaeology into the lives of everyday people and shining new light upon China's precious historical and cultural heritage.
"The great national spirit and the fine traditional culture that the Chinese nation has formed over the long course of its history are both its undying and everlasting legacy and a source of strength for driving its great rejuvenation." Integrating new realities and focusing on the objective of carrying forward our great national spirit and the best of our traditional culture, President Xi has put forward the following explicit requirements for making effective use of breakthroughs in archeology and historical research:
First, make the breakthroughs in archeology and historical research better known
Historical artifacts encapsulate a wealth of historical and cultural information, and can bring historical scenes to life before our eyes. They are therefore vibrant materials for teaching people about history. President Xi has said that in-depth historical study should be used to teach officials, members of the public, and especially young people to understand and appreciate the origins and development of Chinese civilization, its glorious achievements, and its contributions to human civilization in order to constantly enhance their cohesiveness and national pride.
An inscription on the interior of a bronze vessel unearthed at the Tomb of Fu Hao in the ruins of Yin on display at Anyang Museum in Henan Province (Photo taken on October 12, 2018). The ruins of Yin is the location of the longest consecutively running archaeological dig in China, and the ancient site that has produced the greatest wealth of historical remains and artifacts. The oracle-bone inscriptions found there was an epoch-making discovery on the development of both Chinese civilization and human civilization as a whole. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI AN
Second, effectively communicate China's history to the world
Archeology has natural strengths in efforts to tell the world about our country's history. For many years, members of the archeological field in China have done excellent work to promote exchanges between civilizations and cultures and convey China's stories to the world through methods such as organizing overseas exhibitions of cultural artifacts, hosting the Shanghai Archaeology Forum, and inviting foreign scholarly organizations to participate in Chinese archeological studies. President Xi has stressed that we must leverage our breakthroughs in archeology and historical study to "show the international community the depth and breadth of Chinese civilization, effectively convey the glorious achievements and great contributions to humanity that our civilization has made. By seeing that the world understands China's history and national spirit, we can cultivate deeper awareness and understanding of contemporary China, and foster a positive atmosphere in international communication."
Against the ceaseless torrent of history, only the Chinese civilization has stood firm. On this vast land of more than 9.6 million square kilometers, with the accumulated experience of 5,000 years of civilization, and the combined strength of more than 1.4 billion people, China is walking its own path to build a strong and modern socialist country and to realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The breadth of the stage beneath us, the depth of the history behind us, and the strength of the resolve driving us forward are all unparalleled.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 23, 2020. Shortened from the original Chinese version.)