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Cishan Culture

Publication time:【2017/8/7 11:43:34】 Browse num:309






Welcome to visit the series of Cishan Culture, which is divided into six parts, namely, “Inhabitation & Farming”, “Food Processing Tools”, “Hunting, Gathering & Domesticating”, “Processing & Features of Porcelains”, “Weaving & Textiles”, “Primitive Belief & Aesthetics”. You may choose the number and press the corresponding button for whichever aspect you want to know.

In 1972, Cishan Culture Site was found in Cishan Town, Wu’an County, which is 30km southwest to Handan. It is the first time for a cultural site of the early Neolithic age about 8,000 years ago discovered in North China. The discovery stands as an important Neolithic archaeological survey and initiates a prelude of the exploration of the early Neolithic culture along the Yellow River reaches. Meanwhile, it also lifts the mysterious veil of a primitive clan spanning from southern Hebei to the east of Taihang Mountain. We call those in that clan as “Cishan people”. The Cishan people could construct semi-pit houses with such materials as timber, grass and mud, could make stone implements and potteries, could plant grain and raise domesticate livestock, as well as make nets and weave cloths. Primitive religion and art also came into being.

The Cishan people lived a comparatively stable residential life. Living in semi-pit houses, they carried farm implements chiseled and polished of stone, wood, bone and horn to work. They also installed long handles on stone axes and stone shovels in order to lift their bodies up. Stone axes in hands, they cut down timbers and opened up farmland and turned up the soil with stone shovels. They used stone sickles to harvest crops. At that time, the agricultural production played an important role in the whole economic life.


The pottery yu with a stand serves as a representative article of Cishan Culture. The number of unearthed yus takes up a large proportion in the articles found in Cishan Culture. The pottery yus were also manually made, in a shape of a barrel and with a big flat bottom. There are two types: round and oval. It is only in Cishan Culture that took the yu as a cooking utensil and was found in large quantity. The amount of the stands is the second following that of the pottery yu among all pottery wares in Cishan Culture. The flat-bottom pottery yu matches well with the flat-topped tripods. The two parts harmonize as an integrated one, which implies that the stability of triangles was gradually mastered in Cishan age. Fire-burned traces can be easily found on the excavated pottery yus and pottery stands, which show that the two should have been a compound cooking utensil.

Carbonized Millet

In this container is the carbonized millet. The millet, called “guzi” in Chinese, was named as the first of the “five cereals” (millet, barley, rice, wheat and soybeans) later. It is called “xiaomi” (with literal meaning of small rice) after husked. It is a drought-resistant food crop artificially cultivated through the wild millet by Cishan ancestors. That discovery set a world record in the history of artificial planting of the millet. There are 468 ash pits found at Cishan Site and 88 of them were discovered with piled and broken grain bits on the bottom, which should have been the cellars for storing grain. The storage capability is suggested up to about 35,000-50,000 kg. The Cishan people worshipped the millet as “God”. The millet discovered in the grain cellar at Cishan Site is the earliest textural material of the excavated millet in China and is one of the earliest millet in the world.

3. The food processing was an indispensable part in everyday life. The Cishan people already realized that the direct eating of harvested millet was bad in taste and so they created grain-processing implements including the millstone and millstone bar. They spread the millet over on the millstone and grinded with the bar repeatedly to husk. The millet gathered in such a way tasted well and was easy to digest.

Dating back to 10,000 and 20,000 years, the millstone and millstone bar were first invented. However, they were made roughly and could only be used in processing the nuts of wild plants. The millstone and millstone bar discovered at Cishan Site enjoyed a regular shape and were exquisitely made. The surface was flat and smooth. Moreover, three or four legs were designed to strengthen the stability of the millstone. Thus, it could process such small grain as the millet. It is the most complete grain-processing tool found in China.

4. When they were engaged in agricultural production, the Cishan people still put the traditional hunting and gathering as the most crucial living methods. They embedded and tied the harpoon on a long handle to catch fish along the riverbank and even cast net for fish. In the forest, they gathered wild fruits in a way of striking with wooden sticks or throwing stone blocks. Besides encircling hunting, they were good at capturing birds and animals with the help of stone balls, catapults, bows and arrows. Sometimes, they used domestic dogs to assist hunting. Hunted in such a way, the captured animals amounted to 23 including wild animals, birds and fishes.

Some harpoons were fixed directly on the poles. Others were tied on the poles through the holes and grooves on the tail. When stabbing fish, the harpoon tail would insert into the hole in front of the pole. Then the two would be connected together. If the fish was caught, the harpoon and the pole would be separated because of water resistance and the struggle of the fish. The fish was pulled out of water through ropes.

The bamboo catapult took the bamboo as the stick, and bamboo or cane sticks as the bowstring with a bag in the middle, which could be put one or three pills for shooting flying birds. The pottery catapult excavated at Cishan Site was used in such a way.

There are many pig bones found in the cellars at Cishan Site. Those pigs had a shape between that of boars and domestic pigs. Their form and shape made a great difference to that of the boars. Domestic pigs were domesticated from the boars. China is one of the earliest countries that raised pigs in the world.

Carbonized Walnut

The thing in the container is the carbonized walnut. According to historical documents, the walnut was brought back to China when Zhang Qian went to the Western Region. It was called as “hutao” in local Chinese. However, the discovery of carbonized walnut in Cishan revised that viewpoint, which approved that Cishan is the cradle of the Chinese walnut.

Animal Remains

There are plenty of animal remains found at Cishan Site, which could be divided into five categories including beasts, birds, tortoises, fishes and mussels representing at least 23 genera of animals. With the development of hunting economy, the human being’s capability of conquering and controlling animals was greatly increased. Men became familiar with the living habits of certain animals. Therefore, when they had extra food, they raised the quarries. After abiding confinement, the games began to lose their wild nature and gradually became the poultry and livestock.

The Domestic Chickens

Among those animal remains found at Cishan Site, the discovery of domestic chicken has become the earliest record of the history of raising domestic chickens in the world. It was over 4,000 years earlier than that in the earliest acknowledged country, India. The metatarsal bones of Cishan chickens had a similar shape and size to those of modern red jungle fowls. They were bigger than modern red jungle fowls but smaller than that of modern domestic chicken. So the specimens from Cishan belonged to the Gallus with the largest possibility. According to the study of modern zoologists, the domestic chickens are generally accepted as the descendents of the red jungle fowls after artificial feeding. Then, the Cishan specimens were probably the earliest domestic chickens. In addition, most of metatarsal bones of Cishan chickens were from male ones. It is likely that the then people selected male chickens for certain religious rituals. Therefore, it can indirectly prove that the Cishan specimens were undoubtedly the domestic chickens. The outcome of artificial selection was one feature of the poultry and livestock. The domestic chickens trained by the Cishan people were the earliest ones discovered in the world, which denies the saying that “the domestic chickens originated in India”.

5. The Cishan people skillfully mastered every method of firing all types of potteries. The pottery wares made could meet their basic needs in daily life. When they made articles of stone, bone and horn, they first struck the basic forms of the needed wares and then carved and grinded it to make the surface smooth, with a regular shape and full of ornamental features.

The Cishan people made pottery wares through a method known as “coiling clay rope”. They stranded the clay into stripes and coiled up through piling in a fixed way. Thus, the needed shape came into being. Then, they kneaded other parts including the rims and legs. After that, they smeared the clay evenly from exterior to interior. Finally, they baked the model at 700-900℃. The earliest pottery ware in China, a pottery bowl, was unearthed in Yujiagou, Yangyuan, Hebei. It was about 2,000 years earlier than Cishan Culture. Its processing method could be kneaded. The firing temperature was low and the pottery was rough as well.

The pottery utensils were mainly used in firing and cooking foods. The invention of pottery ware was convenient for people to cook all kinds of food and played a great role in strengthening human soma and increasing human wisdom. What’s more, it was unnecessary for the people to live along the rivers but widened the living conditions. The smart Cishan people could fabricate compound pottery utensils and supported the pottery yu with three independent pottery stands, under which fires were burnt. Thus, the cooking was an easy thing. The pottery yu and pottery tripod were typical articles of Cishan Culture.

The pottery wares from Cishan Culture were based on simple brown pottery mixed with sand. Some articles were decorated in an artistic way. Among the patterns, the ropes take the first, followed by the weaving pattern, combing pattern and carved pattern. Red pottery wares of clay were in a small number and with fewer patterns.

6. There are a large amount of spinning and knitting tools found at Cishan Site, for instance, pottery spinning wheels, bone shuffles and bone needles. The traces of the weed mat and the basketwork made of vitex covering were also found on some burnt clay and pottery fragments. It indicates that the then people mastered the technique of twisting threads to knit fishing nets and weave clothing materials. They even could sew clothes to cover their body and defend the chilliness.

A torsion bar was added on the spinning wheel. There was a barb on the bar. When the fastened yarn turned, the fibres could be twisted into a strand of thread. When the spinning wheel stopped, the yarn would twine on the bar. Its structure possessed the basic functions of the modern spindle.

7. The Cishan people felt the mystery of the nature and loved to worship the soil and grain. They held sacrificial activities at fixed dates and prayed to the deities for a happy life, i.e., an abundant harvest and a prosperous year. They wandered around the nature with singing birds and fragrant flowers, which generated their aesthetic interests. They had a simple pursuit to the artistic beauty through production activities.

The Cishan people put the painstaking millet, pigs, dogs and groups of pottery wares into cellars and showed their appreciation to the self-giving heaven and earth through burning and burying. They also piled up groups of pottery wares, millstones and millstone bars etc. together to pray for a more abundant and happier life to Heaven through certain offering rituals. From then on, the pig was regarded as a symbol of wealth and appeared in all types of altars.

Bird-Head Typed Stand

This set of articles was the outcome of the Cishan people distilling artistic nutrition from the nature and combining their aesthetic capability with creativity. The familiar things became mimic objects for the artists. They molded the pottery stand into a shape of a perking bird’s head and even carved the eyes and feathers, which made it vivid and true to life. They loved to make all types of patterns to show their unique interests. In order to have more charms, they even wore decorations around the neck and wrists etc.

8. The Production Scene of the Cishan People

Here is a model reflecting the dwelling, producing and living scenes of the then Cishan people. Some were feeding domestic chickens and dogs. Some were hunting at the foot of distant mountains. Others were catching fishes in the river and building hay houses. It is stereo and vivid. Thus, we can feel personally on the spot. A primitive living scene vividly reveals the then social life.

So much for the exhibition of Cishan Culture. Please go on visiting Zhao Culture.