Culture view: The discovery of a civilized Guizhou in ancient times

Culture view: The discovery of a civilized Guizhou in ancient times


Image Source: Courtesy of Guizhou Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology, Courtesy of IC photo

Guizhou is no longer archaeologically anonymous. In the past ten years, Guizhou has won all the famous Chinese archaeological awards, and a finding was selected as one of the “Top Ten New Archaeological Discoveries in the World”. It also successfully declared a world cultural heritage.

According to Zhou Bisu, director of Guizhou Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Guizhou, with its historical context gradually sorted out and unveiled by archaeologists, is now influencing the world with its historical charm.

 However, Guizhou was once regarded as a “savage and wild land” . It was not until the Ming Dynasty more than 600 years ago that Guizhou was established as the 13th province in China. But archaeological discoveries in recent years have proved that Guizhou is one of the birthplaces of human civilization, and the traces of human activities can be traced back to 300,000 years ago. Pei Wenzhong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that Guizhou was among the best when it came to Paleolithic archaeological findings.

Zhaoguo Cave Ruins in Gui’an New District

“Zhaoguo Cave site is a ‘history book’ written in flashbacks. This big ‘book’ with more than 20 layers is about 8 meters thick. It records the complete history of human beings from the late Paleolithic age to the Neolithic age. They shaped stones into tools, ground bones into cones, made bonfires to drive away wild animals on this land. The traces of all these activities were packed into a time capsule, the Zhaoguo Cave,” said Zhang Xinglong, the deputy director of Guizhou Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology and leader of the archaeological team who unearthed the Zhaoguo Cave site.

Archaeologist Lyu Hongliang said that the prehistoric cave sites in Guizhou had provided valuable resources for international cultural exchanges, “Currently, only the prehistoric caves in the Dordogne Valley in southwestern France can match it.” He added that Guizhou’s karst landforms have led to a particularly large number of caves in this area, hence prominent cave sites, which are very rare in the whole China and even the whole world. Lyu has participated in archaeological excavations in many countries such as Laos and Sri Lanka.

Archaeological work is like nailing coordinates one by one in the long scroll of history, telling us the origin and brilliant achievements of Chinese civilization, and displaying Chinese civilization to the whole world. To Zhou Bisu, “Informing the present and the future with clear historical relics is not only necessary for building China’s cultural self-confidence, but also critical for raising the Chinese people’s cultural self-awareness.”

Site of Hailongtun Tusi Fortress

Zhou Bisu once displayed an exquisite cultural relic in a program of CCTV channel — a gold crown with three dragons and five phoenixes inlaid with gems. The exquisite craftsmanship left a deep impression on all the audience. When they learned that this was an accessory Chieftain Yang specially made for his wife, they were amazed at how his fashion taste went beyond his time and how the cultural relics are the best way to tell us how wealthy our ancestors once were. Zhou Bisu said that they wanted to make cultural relics housed in museums, historical buildings on the vast land, and records written in ancient books “come alive”.

Spring Tea Garden in Guizhou

In November 2022, the traditional Chinese tea-making techniques and related customs were included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The only tea seed fossil in the world dating back to 1.65 million years ago is preserved in Guizhou. This tea seed fossil of four-ball tea, or Camellia tetracocca Zhang, is the oldest tea seed fossil found on the earth so far, which has settled most tea experts’ debate over the origin of tea. Guizhou Province is also expanding the international tea market to share Guizhou’s high-quality tea with the world. Data showed that in 2021, Guizhou’s total tea export volume was 5,937.9 tons, with both the export volume and export value growth rate ranking first in China.

Guizhou was among the first places in China that developed spicy cuisines. It is recorded in an ancient Chinese book Chorography of Sizhou Prefecture that the local Miao people in Guizhou seasoned with chili peppers in order to make up for the lack of salt in the local area. Now Laoganma, a chili sauce brand in Guizhou with unique flavor has been exported to a lot of countries and regions, such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, and South Korea.

If you search for news about “Guizhou archaeology” on Chinese websites, you will find more than 30,000 reports. The public’s curiosity and enthusiasm for Guizhou’s archaeology has also turned the Guizhou’s archaeological landmarks into popular tourism destinations on social media. The voices from the past are still echoing in Guizhou today.