Legend of Zhang Xianzhong's treasure proved true
From：Ecns Writer： Date：2016-10-21
For centuries a legend persisted that a huge bountiful treasure of gold and silver sat at the bottom of the Minjiang River, where it passed through Jiangkou Township, Meishan city in Sichuan Province. The treasure supposedly once belonged to Zhang Xianzhong, the leader of a peasant uprising that occurred during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
This legend was finally accepted as fact last year, after more than a decade of locals discovering thousands of gold and silver-made relics on the river floor, including the gold seal of Zhang Xianzhong himself.
However, at the time this was not a call for celebration among historians, as a majority of the relics that had been discovered over the years had been sold illegally.
Well now the situation seems to have changed.
According to a report from the Chongqing Morning Post, on Friday police from Meishan city, Sichuan Province, announced that after two years of investigation they have solved 328 cases involving the illegal trafficking of ancient cultural relics retrieved from the river. Ten trafficking rings were broken up and 70 arrests were made during the course of the investigation, while thousands of cultural relics, including eight first-class relics, 38 second-class relics and 54 third-class relics worth more than 300 million yuan ($45 million) have been recovered.
As the Ming Dynasty was coming to an end, Zhang rose up as the leader of a peasant uprising and attempted to establish his own Xi Dynasty.
Although the stories vary, one local legend in Jiangkou Township says that Zhang and his army passed through this area on a ship carrying vast amounts of treasure while fleeing enemy forces.
To keep his treasure out of enemy hands, Zhang ordered it dumped over the side, with the intention that he would come back for it later. Yet Zhang died before he could accomplish his goal.
Over the centuries, whether or not this story was true had been hotly debated by historians.
Eleven years ago, however, evidence came forth supporting this legend when local farmer Yang Fuhua discovered a silver ingot while working on an irrigation project. This discovery lead to locals coming down with a case of treasure-hunting fever.
Later, more gold and silver relics were discovered, some engraved with Zhang's name and title on them. This ended up catching the attention of those outside the region as well.
According to the law in China, any unearthed cultural relics must be reported to the proper authorities.
However, while some pieces were handed over to authorities over the years, an interesting phenomenon started taking place in the area.
Some people began "fishing" late at night, while some local families that were once poor, suddenly were able to afford new cars or homes.
Local farmers had basically come to a tacit understanding when it came to "sailing" on the river.
The stretch of the river where many of these historic relics were discovered was established as the Jiangkou Chenyin Historic Site in 2010.
In the beginning of 2014, local police in Meishan noticed that people were scuba diving in the river within the bounds of the protected historic site.
The Meishan police quickly formed a special investigative team to look into the matter. Not long after, the team uncovered a huge trafficking ring that was selling relics from the river to at least 10 provinces across China.
In December, 2015, a leading group of experts from organizations including the Palace Museum, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage officially recognized that local legend was far more than just a story, but actual historic fact.
In a joint proposal, these experts applied for permission to carry out an official archeological excavation, while also calling on local authorities to increase protection for the area.
In June of this year, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage approved the request for an archaeological excavation.