The richness of China's ancient architecture will once again come to the surface with yet another excavation project being undertaken, this time in Kaifeng, Henan Province, as was confirmed by local government officials last month.
The excavation reveals Kaifeng, once serving as the capital to seven dynasties, as not a single city but as a layered "city over city," successively built upon the ruins of previous dynasties. In order to exhibit the partly unearthed site, the Xinzhengmen Museum will be constructed, also housing the site's artifact center.
This so-called "city over city" will be displayed in an exhibit to the public revealing six cities overlapping each other, much like the layers of a pagoda. These different incarnations of Kaifeng include three capital cities, two provincial capitals and one major metropolitan area. Discovered at depths of 10 meters, 8 meters and 6 meters are layers representing the ruins of Daliang, Warring States period (475-221 BC), Dongjing, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and Bianjing, Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), respectively.
Along the River during Qingming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan depicts the prosperity of Dongjing (now Kaifeng) during the Northern Song Dynasty.
"Regarding its scale and layers, Kaifeng is one of the most extraordinary constructions in Chinese history. To some extent, the city of Kaifeng reveals the flux of the changing dynasties, serving as a 'living fossil,' offering a glimpse of the customs and architecture during these key periods of ancient China," Liu Chunying, an archaeologist and officer in Kaifeng's Culture Relics Bureau, said.
Boasting itself as one of the most important cities in ancient China, Kaifeng has long enjoyed its fame as the "ancient capital of seven dynasties," its capital status spanning over 2,700 years. Kaifeng served as capital of the kingdom of Wei, (Warring States, 475-221BC) as well as the dynastic capital to the Later Liang (907-923), Later Jin (936-946), Later Han (947-950), Later Zhou (951-960), Northern Song (960-1127) and Jin (1115- 1234).
The classic masterpiece Along the River during Qingming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan during the Northern Song Dynasty vividly captures the prosperity of Kaifeng (then known as Dongjing) in depictions of urban life, commerce and figures from all strata in society.
Chinese emperors favored Kaifeng as their capital for two main reasons. First, rich in water resources, Kaifeng has many key canals that act as a backbone of commerce, shipping and transportation unmatched by other cities. Second, being located in central China, Kaifeng's strategic position, fertile soil and geographic advantages make for an ideal commercial and military center.
According to local historians, due to constant warring and the massive hydrological project of rerouting the Yellow River, Kaifeng was both destroyed and buried by silt due to floods many times. Despite the city's tendency for disasters, the city was rebuilt repeatedly on the same location.
"Ever since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the city's location has not changed. This symbolizes the unyielding spirit of Chinese people in all situations," Liu added.
The soon-to-be completed Xinzhengmen Museum, with an investment of 300 million yuan ($43.89 million), will demonstrate Kaifeng's unique architecture buried thousands of years ago.
The "city over city" Xinzhengmen Museum will consist of both an artifact and exhibition hall when completed. The artifact hall will be located in the upper part of the ancient city wall, the exhibition hall at the southern part of the artifact hall.
According to Liu, the exact date of excavating the site is still uncertain, although the local archaeological department has already initiated initial survey work and clearance of the area. Source: The Global Times