The location of the Yueyang city of the Qin and Hay Dynasties is in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. Short-term exploration was conducted by Shaanxi Provincial Committee of Cultural Relics Management in July 1964, and confirmed its range which is 1801m from east to west and 2232m from north to south. Nearly twenty years later, in 1980 and 1981 archaeological team from IA CASS confirmed the south and west walls of the Yueyang city. In April 2013, a new session of excavation and exploration was launched and rich data have been collected.
The recent exploration re-prospected the south and west walls. Part of the north wall was exposed. This ancient city foundation was recorded as ‘Ancient City No.1’. According to the result retrieved from test pits, the city was roughly 2430m from north to south and the east wall, however, has not been discovered yet.
Another wall foundation (3100m in length) was found northeast the site. Later a second wall foundation having its long axis aligned north to south was discovered remaining 3800m in length. Theses two walls along with their enclosure comprised the ‘Ancient City No.2’. As two pieces of ‘wuzhu’ coins were recovered under the wall foundation, the date of the city thus is estimated to no earlier then 118 BC. The discovery of the cemetery dating to the Xinmang Period which cut into the road surrounding the south part of the city indicates that it was already abandoned at that time.
Rammed earth of the No.2 city's southern wall
Rammed earth remnant (F1) was found on the foundation of the west wall in No.2 city. It is very likely a third ancient city built upon the remains of previous one. The code of ‘Ancient City No.3’ was given to it. A number of architecture components including tiles with flower-pattern, sunflower-pattern, zoomorphic-pattern, cloud-pattern, plain tiles and so forth. In addition U-shaped slab tile was excavated in the pit H51. Based on the evidence above, the construction of F1 should be later than the middle phases of the Warring States period and the abandon was proposed to occur around the early Han Dynasty. A square courtyard (105m EW, 100m NS) was recovered northeast to F1. No architectures so far have been discovered inside the courtyard. There were four rammed-earth structures aligned in north-south north to the north gate of the courtyard.
The exploration then was conducted from the centre of the courtyard. However, neither city walls nor ditches have been recovered so far. Therefore it remains unclear about the size of the city No.3.
The surface sampling was also carried out in the adjacent to these three cities. According to the brief research, the Yueyang city was situated 1700m away from the southeast corner of the No.2 city in the east, 2600m from the west wall of the No.1 city in the west and 1000m from the north wall of the No.2 city in the north, and covers an area of 36.51 square km.
Half-round eaves-tile with bird pattern unearthed from No.3 city
During our survey of the cemetery in the Guanshan town, a large-scale canal was exposed to the north of the cemetery. The canal was roughly aligned in southwest-northeast axis. Its stratigraphy indicates that there were at least four episodes including construction and abandon. At the very bottom, rope-patterned cylindrical tiles and bricks dating to the Han Dynasty were excavated and in the muddy layers above, plain cylindrical tiles with inside-cloth-pattern along with ceramic fragments were discovered. Inferred from the textual record, this canal was dug during the middle West Han Dynasty and kept using till the Tang Dynasty. The name of the canal is the ‘Bai Canal’ during the Tang and Song Dynasties.
Thanks to the survey and excavation, the range and the location of the Yueyang city can be preliminarily confirmed. Based on the typology of the tiles found in it, the ‘ancient city No.3’ seemed to be the Yueyang city of the Warring States period. This city kept in use till the early West Han Dynasty.
Excavation site of the Bai canal
As many ancient river courses and canals were clustered in this area and remnants of multiple cities were found in succession, the reconstruction of cities might have related to the changing of river course and floods. The ‘Bai canal’ was constructed during the Tang Dynasty when China enjoyed its overwhelming powerfulness and richness. The construction of the ‘Bai canal’ was thus of great importance and had a long-term influence over the construction of irrigation system in the following dynasties. This excavation of the Yueyang city and the Bai canal thus is salient to our understanding towards management of water resource in the ancient China. (Translator: Dong Ningning)