Wuxi's Hongshan Site Museum is built based on the Hongshan tombs. [Photo/China Daily]
Museums reveal treasures of ancient Yue state
The gray mud-pottery ball fits into the palm of a hand, its interlocking coils spotted with turquoise, ruby and brown-glazed motifs.
Closer inspection reveals eight snakes seemingly intertwined with each other, with the tail or body of one snake held in another's mouth, or the head possibly raised upward, its rounded eyes and slightly opened mouth part of the coiled body.
The look of the object, as elusive as its origins, forms what archaeologists call "the mystery of the openwork snake ball".
The object is the only one of its kind, excavated at the Qiuchengdun site of tombs for nobles of the Yue state (770-446 BC) in present-day Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu province.
The tombs at Hongshan town in Xinwu district were excavated jointly by the Nanjing Museum Archaeology Institute and Xinwu District Cultural Relics Management Committee of Wuxi.
One of the tombs at Qjuchengdun stretches nearly 60 meters in the shape of the Chinese character zhong (meaning "center"; characterized by a rectangle with smooth edges and a long line down the middle). It is the second-largest one of its kind built for a Yue noble, smaller only to the tomb of the Yue king in neighboring Zhejiang province.
More than 1,000 funerary articles were found at the Hongshan site, including complete sets of pottery, musical instruments and jadeware.
Porcelain musical instruments, numbering about 500 in 10 varieties, make the tomb one of the largest underground storehouses of ancient instruments discovered, including the yongzhong (a type of bell) and qing (chime stone) from the central plains, chunyu (a metal percussion instrument), dingning (a bell with a handle), duo (big bell) and ling (little bell), which were made in typical Yue style, and the major discovery of the fou clay musical instrument.
The site's four spherical pottery pieces of the coiling snakes form rare research items that can aid the study of the origin of glass and crucial cultural exchanges between China and other countries.
The tomb dates back to the early years of the Warring States Period (475-221BC), possibly during the reign of King Goujian who took the throne in 496 BC. The findings mark one of the most important archaeological discoveries on the Yue state to date. The site has far-reaching significance on the study of Yue history and culture, and offers insight into the ancient history of the area as well as that of music and porcelain production.
Visitors to Wuxi's Hongshan Site Museum based on the Hongshan tombs can get up close with these treasures. The museum forms a national key cultural relic protection site and was designed and built along natural and clean lines. The graphic design resembles a bow and arrow, with surrounding waterways and special bronze tiles on the roof. The top of the buildings along the central axis form two slopes, while the courtyard between the entrance and the central hall, paved with black bricks, reflects the unique architectural style of the country's culturally important Jiangnan area south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
The museum was set up around the large Qiuchengdun Warring States aristocratic mausoleum. It covers more than 9,000 square meters, with a display hall over 3,400 sq m. The tombs and unearthed relics exhibition tell of the discovery, excavation and protection of the tombs. The attraction showcases the luxurious life and burials of the aristocracy and the institution of rites and music during the Yue state, making the site an important stop in line with latest efforts to draw on and preserve local cultural and ecological legacies on the country's development path.
To that effect, Lianghong National Wetland Park, located east of Hongshan, and 22 kilometers from downtown Wuxi and 23 km from downtown Suzhou, offers an ideal green stop from the city. The park is near the major Shanghai-Nanjing Railway, Shanghai-Nanjing Expressway and Wuxi's Sunan Shuofang International Airport transportation links. There are also several lakes and rivers close by. Lianghong covers a planned area of 159 hectares and boasts riverine and marsh wetlands, with a wealth of flora and fauna.
Besides the natural environment, the park features hallmarks of ancient civilization including agricultural activities, water conservancy, folk dwellings and bridges. The adjacent Bodu River lays claim to being China's earliest man-made canal, according to written records dating back more than three millennia.
Set within an exhibition site of Chinese Wu culture in Wuxi's Xinwu district, the wetlands are close to Taibo Canal and bordered by Cao Lake in the east and Wangyu River in the south. It is named after a local tale of Liang Hong and Meng Guang, a couple who epitomized love and respect for each other.
Park visitors can row boats, listen to local folk songs and follow stories about Taibo, a legendary ruler who regulated the rivers and waterways, and experience Wu culture.
Earlier this year, a series of cultural gathering activities were rolled out in Wuxi under the theme "Walking Along The Bodu River".