Li Ji (archeologist)

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Li Ji

Li Ji (Chinese: 李濟; July 12, 1896 – August 1, 1979), also commonly romanized as Li Chi, was an influential Chinese archaeologist. He is considered to be the founder of modern Chinese archaeology and his work was instrumental in proving the historical authenticity of the Shang Dynasty.[1][2][3][4]


Li Ji came from a wealthy family of Hubei province, where, in 1896, he was born in the city of Zhongxiang. In 1918 he left for the United States to study at Clark University. After graduating, he later studied anthropology at Harvard University, where he received his PhD in 1923. Li then began teaching anthropology and sociology at Nankai and then Tsinghua Universities. In 1925 and 1926 he conducted archeological excavations of the Yangshao culture in the southern part of the Shanxi province, for which he was invited to join the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. as a field worker. In 1928 he became the first director of the archeology department of the Academica Sinica while continuing to work for the Freer Gallery.

Li Ji led the excavations at Yinxu near Anyang from 1928 to 1937 until the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War prevented further work. Regarded as the first set of archaeological excavations following modern archaeological principles in China, these excavations yielded the discovery of a royal palace and over 300 graves, including 4 royal ones. The recovered artefacts comprised among others early bronze casts and a large number of oracle bones, which represent the earliest significant body of ancient Chinese writing. Those findings finally established historical authenticity of the Shang Dynasty, which had still been a subject of debate up to that point.

After the war Li Ji fled to Taiwan when the communist forces under Mao Zedong took power in mainland China. There he became the head of the archeology and anthropology departments of the National Taiwan University in Taipei. He died on August 1 of 1979 in Taipei. During his career Li mentored a generation of Chinese archaeologists including Xia Nai, Kwang-chih Chang, and Guo Baojun.


  • 1928: The Formation of the Chinese People: an Anthropological Inquiry
  • 1932: Manchuria in History: a summary
  • 1957: The Beginnings of Chinese Civilization
  • 1977: Anyang


  1. ^ Gina L. Barnes: Li Chi. In: Neil Asher Silberman (ed.), Alexander A. Bauer (ed.): The Oxford Companion to Archaeology - Band 1. Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 9780199735785, p. 223
  2. ^ Timothy Murray: Milestones in Archaeology. A chronological encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara California 2007, ISBN 978-1-57607-186-1, pp. 388 (online copy, p. 388, at Google Books)
  3. ^ Barbara Ann Kipfer: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology. Kluwer Acad./Plenum Publ., New York NY 2000, ISBN 0-306-46158-7, p. 310-311 (online copy, p. 311, at Google Books)
  4. ^ K.C. Chang: Li Chi: 1896-1979. Asian Perspectives, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1980), pp. 317-321 (JSTOR)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • "Li Chi". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 17 May 2017.