Liangzhu culture

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Liangzhu culture
Liangzhu map.svg
Geographical range Zhejiang, China
Period Neolithic China
Dates 3400–2250 BC
Preceded by Majiabang culture
Chinese name
Chinese 良渚文化

The Liangzhu culture (3400–2250 BC) was the last Neolithic jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China. The culture was highly stratified, as jade, silk, ivory and lacquer artifacts were found exclusively in elite burials, while pottery was more commonly found in the burial plots of poorer individuals. The type site at Liangzhu was discovered in Yuhang County, Zhejiang and initially excavated by Shi Xingeng in 1936. A 2007 analysis of the DNA recovered from human remains shows high frequencies of Haplogroup O1 in Liangzhu culture linking this culture to modern Austronesian and Tai-Kadai populations. It is believed that the Liangzhu culture or other associated subtraditions are the ancestral homeland of Austronesian speakers.[1] The Liangzhu Culture entered its prime about 4000 ~ 5000 years ago, but suddenly disappeared from the Taihu Lake area about 4200 years ago when it reached the peak. There are almost no traces of the splendid culture created by the Liangzhu people in the following years ever found in this area.[2] Recent research has shown that the development of human settlements was interrupted several times by rising waters. This led researchers to conclude the demise of the Liangzhu culture was brought about by extreme environmental changes such as floods, as the cultural layers are usually interrupted by muddy or marshy and sandy–gravelly layers with buried palaeotrees.[3]

City-building and agriculture[edit]

The culture possessed advanced agriculture, included irrigation, paddy rice cultivation and aquaculture. Houses were often constructed with stilts on rivers or shorelines.

A new discovery of ancient city wall base relics was announced by the Zhejiang provincial government on November 29, 2007. It was concluded the site was the center of the Liangzhu culture. A new Liangzhu Culture Museum was completed in 2008 and opened late in the year.

Artifacts and technology[edit]

Neolithic pottery dou, Liangzhu Culture, Zhejiang, 1955. National Museum of China, Beijing

The inhabitants of Liangzhu sites used artifact designs of "bent knee" shaped adze handles, stone untangled adzes, art styles emphasizing the use of spirals and circles, cord-marking of pottery, pottery pedestals with cut-out decorations, baked clay spindle whorls, slate reaping knives and spear points. Pottery was often decorated with a red slip. These artifacts are also common in later neolithic Southeast Asia and the technological and economic toolkits of these societies possibly developed in the neolithic Yangtze River area. [4]

Jade work[edit]

Jade bi from the Liangzhu culture. The ritual object is a symbol of wealth and military power.

The jade from this culture is characterized by finely worked large ritual jades, commonly incised with the taotie motif. The most exemplary artefacts from the culture were its cong (cylinders). The largest cong discovered weighed 3.5 kg. Bi (discs) and Yue axes (ceremonial axes) were also found. Jade pendants were also found, designed with engraved representations of small birds, turtles and fish. Many Liangzhu jade artefacts had a white milky bone-like aspect due to its tremolite rock origin and influence of water-based fluids at the burial sites, although jade made from actinolite and serpentine were also commonly found. Most of Liangzhu's contemporaries have some jades, but 90 per cent of all the cong and bi jades recovered, and by far the best in quality, are from Liangzhu sites. [5]


A neolithic altar from the Liangzhu culture, excavated at Yaoshan in Zhejiang, demonstrates that religious structures were elaborate and made of carefully positioned piles of stones and rock walls: this indicates that religion was of considerable importance. The altar has three levels, the highest being a platform of rammed earth. Three additional platforms were paved with cobblestones. There are the remains of a stone wall. On the altar are twelve graves in two rows.[6] Some scholars claim that ritual sacrifice of slaves was part of the Liangzhu tradition.[7]

Genetic studies[edit]

A 2007 analysis of the DNA recovered from human remains in archeological sites of prehistoric peoples along the Yangtze River shows high frequencies of Haplogroup O1 in the Liangzhu culture, linking them to Austronesian and Tai-Kadai peoples.The Liangzhu culture existed in coastal areas around the mouth of the Yangtze. Haplogroup O1 was absent in other archeological sites inland. The authors of the study suggest that this may be evidence of two different human migration routes during the peopling of Eastern Asia, one coastal and the other inland, with little genetic flow between them.[8] [9]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Freeman Foundation. "Lost Maritime Cultures: China and the Pacific". 
  2. ^ "Migration of the Tribe and Integration into the Han Chinese". 
  3. ^ Wu, Li. "Holocene environmental change and its impacts on human settlement in the Shanghai Area, East China". science direct. science direct. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Tarling, Nicholas (1999). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. pp. 102–103. 
  5. ^ Maisel, Charles Keith (1999). Early Civilizations of the Old World: The Formative Histories of Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, India and China. Psychology Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-4151-0975-8. 
  6. ^ Xujie, Lui (2002). Chinese Architecture -- The Origins of Chinese Architecture (English Ed. ed.). Yale University Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-300-09559-7. 
  7. ^ Maisel, Charles Keith (1999). Early Civilizations of the Old World: The Formative Histories of Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, India and China. Psychology Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-4151-0975-8. 
  8. ^ Li, Hui; Huang, Ying; Mustavich, Laura F.; Zhang, Fan; Tan, Jing-Ze; Wang, ling-E; Qian, Ji; Gao, Meng-He; & Jin, Li (2007). "Y chromosomes of prehistoric people along the Yangtze River" (PDF). Human Genetics 122: 383–388. doi:10.1007/s00439-007-0407-2. PMID 17657509. 
  9. ^ Carvalho, Marie. "New paths to old worlds". 


  • Allan, Sarah (ed), The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective, ISBN 0-300-09382-9
  • Zhou Ying, "The Dawn of the Oriental Civilization: Liangzhu site and Liangzhu culture", ISBN 978-7-5085-1058-3, China Intercontinental Press, Beijing, 2007 (in both Chinese & English).