The Institute of Archaeology was established on August 1st 1950 and was one of the first Institutes to be established under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, later becoming part of the department of philosophy and social sciences. In 1977 the Institute was transferred to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It's basic tasks are to reveal the meaning, characteristics and interrelations between different cultural remains from prehistoric periods to historical periods, in combination with ancient literature and utilising techniques from the field of natural sciences, as well as other methods. Research has a firm foundation in field archaeology, and all is under the direction of Marxist thought.
The Institute undergoes archaeological research into ancient politics, economy, culture and society, investigating the processes and patterns of the development of ancient society. Concurrently, the Institute engages in the research on ancient cultural heritage preservation. Successive Institute heads have been: Zheng Zhenduo (1950), Yin Da (1959), Xia Nai (1962), Wang Zhongshu (1982), Xu Pingfang (1988), Ren Shinan (1992), Liu Qingzhu (1998) and Wang Wei (2006).
When the Institute was first established, its research staff were primarily members of the former Institute of History and Philology at the Academia Sinica, and the former Historical Research Institute of Peking Academe, as well as several young scholars. By 1958 there were some 300 research staff, falling to over 200 in 1985. Now the Institute hosts 158 people, of which 43 are researchers and 41 are associate research fellows. 39 have doctoral degrees, while 38 have master's degrees.
In the past sixty years, the Institute of Archaeology has carried out archaeological field work in over 200 cities and counties within 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as in Hong Kong and Macau. Before 1977, in order to explore archaeological work in the new China, and establish the academic discipline of Chinese archaeology, the Institute undertook academic archaeological excavations and research tasks across the country. Excavations included: Banpo in Xi'an, Shaanxi, Miaodigou in Henan's Shan county, Qujialing in Hubei's Jingshan region, Liuwan in Ledu, Qinghai, Erlitou in Yanshi and the Yin ruins in Anyang, both in Henan province, Qishan Zhouyuan and Fufeng in Shaanxi, Fenggao in Xi'an, Shaanxi, the Eastern Zhou city in Luoyang, Henan, the Han Chang'an city in Xi'an, Shaanxi, the Han dynasty tombs in Mancheng, Hebei, the Caowei Ye city in Linzhang, Hebei, Hanwei gucheng in Luoyang, Henan, the Tang Chang'an and Sui Daxing city in Xi'an, Shaanxi, the Sui and Tang dynasty Luoyang city in Henan, Tang and Song dynasty Yangzhou in Jiangsu, Yuan Dadu in Beijing, the Liaozuling cemetery in Balinzuoqi, Inner Mongolia, and the Ming Dynasty imperial tomb in Beijing, all of which are important archaeological sites that fully reveal the historical features between 7,000BP to Yuan-Ming dynasty. The Institute has also trained a large number of archaeological excavators and researchers who work all over the country, previously working with the National Ministry of Culture to support Beijing University's history department to offer an archaeology degree, also jointly hosting training classes for national archaeological workers over four times from 1952-1955, together with the Ministry of Culture and Beijing University. These training classes trained 369 archaeologists.
Since 1977, a series of fieldwork expeditions have taken place, centering around the transition between the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period, the origin and development of agriculture, the study of Chinese prehistory, the origin and development of Chinese civilization, the history and culture of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, the development of China's ancient cities, the formation and characteristics of China's feudal empire, the production and development of China's ancient handicraft industry, as well as ancient cultural exchange between China and the outside world. On the basis of large scale archaeological investigation, 200 major sites that reflect important parts of Chinese history were selected, including large settlements, ancient cities, large graves and imperial tombs, and ongoing large-scale excavations have been carried out, supplementing many gaps in our knowledge and research. The valuable results that have been achieved over the years have a prominent place in the already established discipline of Chinese archaeology.
Since 1994, the Institute has worked together with archaeological research institutes and universities in America, Canada, Japan, Korea, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, France, Russia and Australia to carry out field archaeology in China. In 2000 and 2002 the archaeological excavation team was sent to Germany and Russia to participate in international archaeological fieldwork. Academic exchange has been establish with academic institutions in over twenty countries, over one thousand visiting scholars have been received and over one hundred have been sent abroad to give lectures and study. Providing the exquisite cultural relics that have reflect the cultural characteristics, levels of science and technology of different historical periods to support the basic displays of the national museum and regional museums across the country, as well as participating in large scale heritage displays held by China in Europe, America and Japan. Together with the Institute's achievements in research and excavation, these relics have been exhibited at the special exhibitions held in Japan, such as “The emergence of China's dynasties”, the “Flourishing Han dynasty cultural relic exhibition” and the “Envoy to the Tang's view of Chinese culture exhibition“, solely organized by the Institute.
Under the leadership and influence of Xia Nai, the Institute of Archaeology has always placed emphasis on the application of natural science technologies in archaeology, the library and information infrastructure, and the editing and publication of academic journals and monographs. In 1959 China's first carbon-14 dating laboratory was established, and in the early sixties, the Chinese archaeological sphere's first macro-analysis chemical laboratory was set up. Currently the Institute is a solid technological power in the field of Chinese scientific/technological archaeology, with abundant technical skills, relatively advanced equipment and comprehensive means of and capacity for research, leading the country in overall research capability. In 1995, the scientific/technological archaeology research centre was created, opening up many new fields of research.
The institute holds 240,000 volumes of books, forming an archaeological documentation centre with a complete collection of related research volumes. The Institute publishes such journals as Acta Archaeological Sinica and Archaeology which are well regarded in the academic world. The English edition of Chinese Archaeology, first published in 2000, is China's only English language archaeological magazine. Over 200 special publications have been published, of which nearly a hundred are the results of research carried out by the Institute, and many of the Institute's achievements have been awarded outstanding achievement awards at the national or provincial level.
The Institute of Archaeology is striving to fulfill its roles as an academic research centre for Chinese archaeology, scientific/technological archaeology research centre, the archaeological information centre, and an international academic exchange centre for Chinese archaeology. The Institute is working hard to become an internationally renowned archaeological research institution with a wide range of disciplines and research areas, with advanced methods of research, plentiful academic achievements and a wealth of academic talent.
The Institute of Archaeology is divided into the following organizations: department for prehistoric archaeology, Xia, Shang and Zhou archaeology, Han and Tang archaeology, and frontier ethnicities archaeology, research centre for scientific/technological archaeology, Conservation and research center of cultural heritage, Center for Archaeological Data and Information and Editorial Office of Archaeology. In addition there is a research centre in Xi'an, and work stations in Luoyang and Anyang. The Institute is also responsible for the following non-physical research entities: the ancient civilization research centre (CASS), the frontier archaeology research centre, the foreign archaeology research centre and the public archaeology centre, and, in terms of academic bodies, and the affiliated academic community is Archaeological Society of China. (Translated by Duncan Poupard)