Longshan culture

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Longshan culture
Longshan map.svg
Geographical range China
Period Neolithic China
Dates c. 3000 – c. 2000 BC
Type site Chengziya
Major sites Taosi, Shimao
Preceded by Yangshao culture, Dawenkou culture
Followed by Erlitou culture
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 文化
Simplified Chinese 文化

The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture was a late Neolithic culture in China, centered on the central and lower Yellow River and dated from about 3000 to 2000 BC. The culture is named after the modern town of Longshan (lit. "Dragon Mountain") in the east of the area under the administration of Jinan, Shandong Province, where the first archaeological find (in 1928) and excavation (in 1930 and 1931) of this culture took place at the Chengziya Archaeological Site. Some researchers state that the Longshan culture is a later development of the Yangshao culture.[1] Some also state the Longshan culture to be a successor of the Dawenkou culture.[2][3][4][5] There are also others that state the Longshan is a successor of both Yangshao and Dawenkou cultures.[6][7]


Black eggshell pottery of the Longshan culture
Jadeware produced during Longshan culture, now collected in Shandong Museum

The distinctive feature of the Longshan culture was the high level of skill in pottery making, including the use of pottery wheels. The Longshan culture was noted for its highly polished black pottery (or egg-shell pottery). This type of thin-walled and polished black pottery has also been discovered in the Yangtze River valley and as far as today's southeastern coast of China.[8] It is a clear indication that neolithic agricultural sub-groups of the greater Longshan Culture had spread out across ancient boundaries of China.[9]

Life during the Longshan culture marked a transition to the establishment of cities, as rammed earth walls and moats began to appear; the site at Taosi is the largest walled Longshan settlement. Rice cultivation was clearly established by that time. Small-scale production of silk by raising and domesticating the silkworm Bombyx mori in early sericulture was also known.[9]

Remains found at archaeological sites suggest that the inhabitants used a method of divination based on interpreting the crack patterns formed in heated cattle bones.[10] But the cultural feature that is perhaps the most striking in the Longshan site excavations is the discovery of many burned animal scapulas: uninscribed oracle bones. These seem to offer very positive evidence that the Longshan people were the ancestors of the Shang, particularly in light of the shared feature of city walls. [11]

The Neolithic population in China reached its peak during the Longshan culture. Towards the end of the Longshan culture, the population decreased sharply; this was matched by the disappearance of high-quality black pottery found in ritual burials.[citation needed]

Eleven characters found at Dinggong in Shandong, China on a pottery sherd, Longshan culture


The early period of the Longshan culture is considered to be 3000 to 2600 BC, while the late period is 2600 to 2000 BC.[12] A variety of geographic regions of China are involved among the various sub-periods of the Longshan civilisation, particularly for the Late Longshan period.[12] For example the middle reaches of the Jing River and Wei River evince settlement known as the Shaanxi Longshan.[12] The We'i River valley would participate in key historic events in China as the North Silk Road developed in that same area.


It is evident that experimentation with the production of cast bronze vessels was taking place during the Longshan period. In late Longshan contexts at the small, walled site of Wangenhenggang in central Henan, archaeologists found a tiny fragment of cast bronze vessel. There is no other evidence for the production of cast bronze food vessels during the Longshan period. However, certain angular features of Longshan and early Bronze Age ceramic vessels indicate the existence of sheet metal technology for producing vessels. [13]

Shimao site[edit]

The Shimao Site is located in the northern part of the Loess Plateau. It is on the southern edge of the Ordos Desert in China. The site was dedicated to the late Longshan period and the early bronze age period. The site was thought to be large city which was surrounded by stone walls, both exterior and interior, which differed from rammed earth walls typical of other Longshan sites. The walls were 2.5 meters thick on average. The perimeter of interior wall was about 4200 m in length, while the exterior wall's perimter was 5700 m. Many defense features, such as gates, turrets and watch towers were in place. Inside the interior walls were densely distributed residential zones, cemeteries, and craft workshops. The area inside the walls totaled 400 hectares. The layout of this city was similar to those in historical ancient China, with a palace or similar complex in the center and one or two walls surrounding the city. The style of engineering was also noted to be similar to ancient Chinese methods. Jade was often found within the walls and there is evidence to support that these were viewed as spiritual items. The many human skulls buried in the lower layer of the city gate suggest that ritual activities took place at the time of construction and there appears to have been increasing social complexity in this area. This site is by far the largest dated to this time period and contributes greatly to our understanding of the development of the Chinese state. [14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Karl Moore, David Charles Lewis (2009). The Origins of Globalization. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-1359-7008-6. 
  2. ^ Underhill, Anne P. (Feb 28, 2013). A Companion to Chinese Archaeology. John Wiley & Sons. p. 576. ISBN 978-1-4443-3529-3. 
  3. ^ Maisel, Charles Keith (1999). Early Civilizations of the Old World: The Formative Histories of Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, India and China. Psychology Press. p. 273, 283. ISBN 978-0-4151-0975-8. 
  4. ^ Chang, Kwang-Chih (2005). The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective. Yale University. p. 97. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Tanner, Miles (2010). China: From Neolithic cultures through the Great Qing Empire 10,000 BCE-1799 CE. p. 24. 
  6. ^ West, Barbara. Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. p. 467. 
  7. ^ Li, Feng (2013). Early China: A Social and Cultural History. Cambridge University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-5218-9552-1. 
  8. ^ Fairbank, 32.
  9. ^ a b Fairbank, 33.
  10. ^ Longshan culture. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 31, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  11. ^ Eno, R. "NEOLITHIC CHINA: BEFORE THE SHANG DYNASTY" (PDF). www.indiana.edu. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c Kwang-chih Chang, "The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective", 2005, Yale University Press, 384 pages ISBN 0-300-09382-9
  13. ^ Underhill, Anne. Craft Production and Social Change in Northern China. 
  14. ^ Zhouyong, Sun. "Shimao: A Stone-Walled Settlement of the 2nd Millennium BC in Northern China". IA CASS. 


  • Fairbank, John King and Merle Goldman (1992). China: A New History; Second Enlarged Edition (2006). Cambridge: MA; London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01828-1
  • Liu, Li. The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States, ISBN 0-521-81184-8