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Ancient tombs site of digs in Beijing
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-20 22:36

A group of 48 ancient graves, dating back from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), have been unearthed in an area about 20 kilometres west of Tian'anmen Square.

The excavation, which began early last month, was designed to salvage cultural relics at the site of the Wukesong Cultural and Sports Centre. That is one of the sites for the 2008 summer Olympic Games, said Zhu Zhigang, an official with the Beijing Academy of Cultural Relics Studies.

"We have uncovered eight graves built in the West Han Dynasty and East Han Dynasty (AD 25 - 220) periods, three graves in the Liao and Jin periods (916-1234), and 37 graves in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911)," said Zhu, leader of the excavation work.

Nearly 200 articles including earthenware, porcelain and jadeware have been found in the graves, Zhu added. The excavation site is located in Wukesong in Haidian District.

According to the Law on Cultural Relics Protection, archaeological investigation and excavation should be done before a massive construction project is to be carried out.

The Wukesong Cultural and Sports Centre is a major venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Construction is to be started in June this year.

Zhu said the excavation, covering an area of around 20,000 square metres, is just the first step in rescuing the heritage buried at the site.

"We plan to carry out at least two such excavations to match the progress of the construction," said Zhu.

Qi Xin, president of the Beijing Archaeological Studies Association, said the finds of the graves, which span more than 2,000 years, are very important in the study of funeral customs of the Han, Liao, Jin, Ming and Qing dynasties.

The funeral articles unearthed from the graves of the two Han dynasties include superb variety, and are preserved very well, said Qi.

She concluded that people buried there had relatively high social status.

Qi said there were several scattered tombs of the Ming and Qing dynasties found at the Wukesong area in the past.

"But the discovery of graves in group of the two Han dynasties is very rare, especially in such a site in the Chinese capital city," said Qi.

She noted that as construction of more major Olympic venues is carried out around Beijing in the next few years, archaeological workers will face unprecedented opportunities for additional finds as well as challenges to salvage relics within the city with its 3,000 year history.

Qi pointed out that in a period of rapid economic development and burgeoning construction, the responsibility for safeguarding and preserving the historic and cultural relics is of greater importance. People can build many modern projects but can never recreate the past.

"I'm very glad to see the construction sector can team up with the cultural heritage protection departments to preserve these ancient treasures. They are common wealth for all human beings," said Qi.

The Beijing Cultural Relic Bureau and the Beijing Construction Command of the Olympic Venues have jointly issued a notice stipulating that archaeological investigations must be carried out before gymnasiums and stadiums can be built.

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