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Ancient port reveals its secrets

By Xu Xiaodan and Wang Ru | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-08-08 07:59
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The water gate area in the east of the Shuomen ancient port site in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

Finds at best site of its kind in China fill in gaps in record of Maritime Silk Road, Xu Xiaodan and Wang Ru report in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

A panoramic scroll attributed to Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) court painter Wang Zhenpeng, or his disciple, depicts life in the bustling port town of Wenzhou, which lies on the Oujiang River in Zhejiang province.

Wenzhou was Wang's home, and his scroll shows its busy port, with cargo vessels coming and going, and a variety of people engaged in trade.

Through existing poems and paintings, it has long been possible to trace the past prosperity of ancient Wenzhou port during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan periods, but now a more accurate portrait of that moment in history is emerging from the recent archaeological discovery of the ruins of the city's ancient port of Shuomen.

The discovery was listed as one of the top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2022, as announced by the National Cultural Heritage Administration in March.

Shuomen was uncovered during construction in 2021, and the archaeological excavation, which is still ongoing, began immediately after.

The site, which covers about 5,000 square meters, is roughly divided into three parts, namely the wengcheng (the name for a defensive enclosure outside a city gate) area in the west, the water gate area in the east, and the port area near the Oujiang River between the two.

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