A great civilization rises with capitals established in the central plain

Source: Henan Museum Edit: Zrr Time: 2020-12-08 09:59:34

The permanent exhibition of Henan Museum “A great civilization rises with capitals established in the central plain” consists of ten galleries in seven parts: The Neolithic Age, Xia-Shang, Western Zhou, Eastern Zhou, Qin-Han-Wei-Jin-Northern and Southern dynasties, Sui-Tang, Song-Jin-Yuan, which are chronologically arranged, displaying the evolvement of the dynastic capital city, aiming at an introduction about the profound history and culture of the Central Plains.

Preface Hall

Since the establishment of the agrarian economy in remote antiquity, political unity and disunity have been alternating on the soil of China, accompanied by the development of the Chinese civilization in the numerous social transitions. Due to the advantageous geographical position and the mild climate in the Central Plains, Chinese ancients were inclined to the building concept of “Selecting an appropriate place in the central plains as the seat of the capital city” over the long history of China. The present day Henan province, locating in the center of the Central Plains, had always been a place militarily vied for by the commanders, as well as the most favorable place to be the capital of the successive dynasties. In total, as many as over 20 dynasties had their capital cities set in Henan, accordingly abundant historical heritages were left.

The First Gallery: Prior to the formation of the polity--- the Neolithic Age (circa. 8,000--2,000 B.C.)

The part shows the initial form of the Central Plains civilization. The shards of the utensils discovered at the Lijiagou ruin which dates back to 8,000 B.C exhibits the transformation of living condition of the ancients from mobility to the relatively stable settlement. The archaeological finds from the cultural settlements at Peiligang of Henan dating to 7,000 B.C indicates that human being has been capable of cultivating the land with stone farm tools, apart from the basic grain processing, and simple decoration on the red potteries for daily life. In the Yangshao culture period of 5,000 B.C. , the earliest urban settlement--the Zhengzhou Xishan Guchen(lit. ancient city at the Western Mount) appeared in the Yellow River basin, the aesthetically painted polychrome decorations on potteries become the emblem of the Yangshao culture. In the Longshan culture of 3,000 B.C.in the Central Plains, fortified urban settlements with dual defensive functions flourished, social hierarchy gradually came into being, Huaxia group of the Central Plains began to take the favorable position in the upcoming cultural amalgamation.

The First Gallery

Bone flute

The Second Gallery: Emergence of the Regimes in the Central Plains---Xia and Shang dynasties (2070 B.C.---1046 B.C.)

About 2,000 B.C., Xia, the first dynasty in the history of China was founded, which had the Central Plains as the core of its territory, thus a series of politically connected capital-scale cites or settlements appeared here. The Erlitou culture of Xia dynasty (at Yanshi city of Henan) laid the foundation for the prototype of the earliest polity of China. Around 1,600 B.C., the Xia dynasty collapsed followed by the establishment of the Shang dynasty, whose capitals primarily built in present-day Henan province in its 500 years’ history, therefore, ruins of the magnificent and fully-fledged capital city were discovered in different places of Henan, such as Zhengzhou, Yanshi, and Anyang. And numerous fascinating bronze ritual vessels were archaeologically discovered.

The Second Gallery

 Four-legged bronze Gong with inscriptions of Hou Mu Xin

The Third Gallery:Dwelling in the Central Kingdom--- The Western Zhou (1046 B.C.--771 B.C.)

Around 1,000 B.C., King Wu of Zhou established the Western Zhou after conquering the Shang dynasty, and built a new capital Luoyi (present Luoyang city) which was deemed to be the center of the heaven and earth, followed by the successive establishment of the systems of patriarchal clan and rites and music. In order to strengthen the governance, the King of Zhou dynasty created the patriarchal clan enfeoffment system, as many as over 70 nobles were successively enfeoffed in the places of the Central Plains. The representative tombs of the Western Zhou nobles found at Changzikou, Taiqing palace, Luyi county, Wei State cemetery at Xunxian county of Hebi, Ying State ruin in Pingdingshan, as well as the Guo state cemetery in Sanmenxia show us the history and culture of the vassal states of the time in the Central Plains which were perished long ago.

The Third Gallery

Jade pendant excavated at cemetery of Ying state

The Fourth Gallery:Vying for dominance in the Central Plains---- Eastern Zhou (770 B.C--221 B.C.)

In the late Western Zhou dynasty, the vassal states became more and more powerful and fight for supremacy against each other, as the central power of the Zhou rulers decayed. In 770 B.C., the King of Zhou established the Eastern Zhou by moving the capital to Luoyang, and it fell into disunity later, the regional states became increasingly independent, prompting the waning influence of the Zhou court. A few of more powerful states, i.e. Zheng, Wei, Chu, competed in building up their military strength followed by annexation of their adjacent smaller states, whereas other weak states, such as Cai, Huang, Zeng were struggling for survival among the threat from the strong states. 

Locating at different places, the vassal states were culturally distinct. Naturally, the cultural relics discovered from the tombs at the different places in Henan are embodiment of these cultures of the time, such as Zheng-Han Gucheng(ancient city)Ruin,Jiayi tombs at Liulige of Huixian county, the cemetery of Chu elites at Xiasi of Xichuan county, Chu state cemetery at Guozhuang village of Shangcai county. 

The Spring and Autumn to the Warring States period witnessesed a great transforming time in Chinese history. Philosophers of the pre-Qin developed their own ideological schools which flourished and became known as the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought. Had been always the heartland in the development of the Chinese nation, the Central Plains cradled the major ones of The Hundred Schools of Thought which have been cherished by the later generations as the spiritual support of Chinese nation for their intellectual ideas and outstanding theories with a high ideological level humanistic values, lofty realms, and humanistic values. 

The Fourth Gallery

Bronze Ding Set

The Fifth and Sixth Galleries:Qin-Han-Wei-Jin-Northern and Southern Dynasties (221--581 A.D.)

In 3rd century B.C., Qin united China by conquering the other six states, but was replaced by Han dynasty only just over ten years later. Long and stable governance of Han dynasty secured the prosperity materially and culturally. Many remarkable advancements and accomplishments were made in architecture, recreation, decoration, production technology, science, as well as necessities which laid the foundation for the Han court to begin the exploration of the surrounding areas, consequently give rise to the Silk Road and the ethnic amalgamation. During the Wei, Jin, the Northern and Southern dynasty, the Central Plains fell into segmentation again, several regimes were established by the various ethnic minorities. Along with the capital relocation of Xianbei (Northern Wei) to the south, and the introduction of Buddhism, the ethnic amalgamations culminated unprecedentedly in scope and depth.

Three important cities in Henan, namely Xuchang, the last capital of Eastern Han, Nanyang, the hometown of the founder of the Eastern Han, and the Eastern Capital Luoyang, witnessed the vicissitude of this period.

The Fifth Gallery

The Sixth Gallery

The Seventh and Eighth Galleries:Sui and Tang dynasties (581--907 A.D.)

In 581 CE, Sui dynasty brought the disunity of the South and North of China to an end, and laid the foundation for the ensuing prosperous Tang dynasty. The emperors of not only Tang, but also Sui(though short-lived) dynasties made great achievements during their reigns: the Grand Canal, metropolitan Luoyang, Silk Road, and the rich exquisite historical heritages, all of them are exemplifying the abundant vigor and vitality of the Tang dynasty, reflecting the zeitgeist of the period which shows characteristics of openness, inclusiveness, and aggressiveness. 

The cultures of Sui and Tang not only influenced the Asian economy and civilization, but also left profound marks in the process of the global civilization.

The Seventh Gallery

The Eighth Gallery

The Ninth and Ten Galleries:The Splendors of the Eastern Capital(Dong Jing)Song Jin and Yuan dynasties (960--1368 A.D.)

In the late Tang dynasty, a dozen concurrent states were established. In 960 CE, China was unified once again by the Song dynasty. The capital city of Song, aka. Eastern Capital (Dong Jing), Kaifeng, was the economic and cultural center of the time. The concurrent states founded by the nomadic people from the north of China were increasingly stronger, and became dominant in the Southern Song period. Folk cultures of the Central Plains were well developed in the Song, Jin, and Yuan periods, ceramic craftsmanship and scientific technologies reached a peak in the history of China.

The Ninth Gallery

The Ten Gallery

The Conclusion Gallery

Locating at the central zone of politics, military, economy, culture in ancient China, the Central Plains is the birthplace of Chinese civilization, thus exerting a great influence and “radiation” on the surrounding areas. With the help of multimedia and the model of the Observatory of Yuan dynasty in Dengfeng city of Henan province, and a retrospection on the magnificent historical events occurred in the Central Plains, as well as the exchange and fusion between civilizations of China and others from the world, this gallery exhibits the clear and continuing development sequence of Chinese civilization, amply conveying the concept and the title of the exhibitions “A great civilization rises with capitals established in the central plain” .

The Conclusion Gallery

Henan Museum
Collection Display