The cover page of the Science magazine published on August 23, 2009 used a photo of the magic design on a cong-tube from an elite burial at the Fanshan cemetery of the Liangzhu culture. The ‘New Focus’ of this issue consisted of three long reports and four short stories, focusing on the research on the origin of Chinese civilization and other hot issues in current archaeology in China.
The author of these papers, Andrew Lawler, paid a two weeks visit China in June. With the help of the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, he had visited some archaeological institutes including the IACASS, the Archaeology Department of Beijing University, the Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, the Shannxi Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, the Zhejiang Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics and the Chengdu Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics. He also saw some important sites and talked with some scholars who is the currently undergoing national academic project – the Origin of Chinese Civilization. Andrew had also connected with some scholars in the USA and Canada for the accomplishment of these papers.
In the major report ‘Beyond the Yellow River: How China Became China’, Andrew tried to describe how the interpretation of the origin of Chinese civilization change from a sing-origin model to a multi-origins model triggered by astonishing archaeological discoveries beyond the Yellow River Valley. As Professor Wang Wei, director of IACASS said: “Before these astonishing discoveries, we were focused on the central plains. Most of us accepted that the Yellow River was the origin of Chinese civilization. But as we’ve done more research, we have found other cultural areas as numerous as the stars in the sky. Now it is clear that the development and expansion of regional centers contributed to the formation of Chinese civilization.”
Another report titled ‘Bridging East and West’ focuses on the interaction between China and its western civilizations. Though there is still debate on the diffusion of bronze casting techniques and wheat, goat and cattle domestication, Chinese archaeology now can freely talk about influence from outside world during the formation of Chinese civilization. Wang Wei’s opinion cited by Andrew is quite representative: “Chinese archaeologists still believe China’s civilization developed independently. But they also believe that there was important communication with the outside world.”
Although there are some mistakes, such as the wrong date of the Hongshan culture, generally speaking, these papers provide an objective description of the latest effort of Chinese archaeologists for the exploration of Chinese civilization.