Wang Wei: Research Fellow, Professor, and Director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Archaeology Department.
Wang Wei was born in Changchun City, in 1954. In February 1970, he went to Nong’an County, Jilin Province, as part of a countryside assistance team, staying there until January 1972. Upon his return, he started work at Changchun City’s boiler factory. He worked there from February, 1972 to the December of 1976, and began by doing bench-work, before becoming the factory labor union’s deputy chairman later on. During this time (in 1974), Wang Wei was also successful in his application to join the Chinese Communist Party, and, after leaving the factory, became the vice secretary of Changchun City’s Luyuan Commune, a position he filled from January 1977 to February 1978. In March of 1978, the 24 year old Wang Wei began his studies in Jilin University’s Faculty of History, majoring in archaeology. He graduated with his BA in 1982, and it was at this point that he joined the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Science (IA CASS), accompanying them on an excavation of a city site and cemetery dating back to the Western Zhou Dynasty in Liulihe, Fangshan District, Beijing.
From 1987 to 1990, Wang Wei was in Japan, having been dispatched there by IA CASS. He spent time at both the Kashihara Archaeological Institute, and the Ibaraki University, where he pursued further studies, significantly advancing his understanding of Japanese archaeology. In 1992, he was made an associate research fellow at IA CASS, and in January of 1995 he was awarded the title of “Doctor of Humanities” by the Kyushu University, in recognition of his academic work, The Yamatai State and the Wo Regime in Ancient Chinese Texts (published 2 years previously in Japanese). Mr. Wang was a visiting scholar at Japan’s Waseda University’s Literature department, from April, 1995 to March, 1996, and it was here that he published his second doctoral thesis, Ancient Iron Objects and the Diffusion and Exchange of Iron Metallurgical Techniques in East Asia (originally published in Chinese as Dongya Diqu Gudai Tieqi he Yetieshu de Chuanbo yu Jiaoliu). Following this, in the July of 1996, he was awarded his Ph.D from Graduate School, CASS. This made Wang Wei China’s first archaeologist to receive doctorates in both Chinese and Japanese. A year later he was promoted to research fellow by IA CASS.
In 1999 Wang Wei was recognized by CASS as having made “Outstanding Contributions in his Field” as a expert and doctoral advisor, and received special government funding. In addition to this particular distinction, 2001 also saw him made an honorary fellow of Germany’s Archaeological Institute, and in 2006 he was made a lifelong international academician by the Society of American Archaeology. Elected as a CASS member in 2011, Professor Wei went on to represent Archaeology in an entirely larger way, only two years later. In February 2013, he was elected as a representative of the 12th National People's Congress, and was the only archaeologist out of close to 3000 representatives. This makes Professor Wang Wei the second National Congress representative ever produced by CASS, with the first being the eminent Doctor Xia Nai (1910 – 1985).
August, 1996. Head of the IA CASS’s Xia, Shang, and Zhou Department.
June, 1998. Deputy Director of IA CASS, Editor in Chief of Kaogu journal, and Head of Archaeological Department at the CASS’s graduate school.
2005 onwards. Executive Member of the CASS graduate school’s Professor Committee, Director of its History Department, and a member on their Committee overseeing academic degrees.
July, 2006. Director of IA CASS.
Other Social Duties
Wang Wei has been a member of the fifth and sixth meeting of the Historical Sciences Advisory Groups to the Degree Committee of the State Council (each meeting brings together 15 scholars drawn from all of China’s many universities and research institutes), and at the sixth meeting Professor Wang was the only archaeologist in attendance. He is also vice-chairman of the Chinese Archaeological Society, and former vice president of the Society of Yinshang Culture.
In addition he has also been a visiting Professor, or Research fellow, at many of China’s very best universities, such as Peking University, Fudan University, Nanjing University, Jilin University, Beijing Normal University, Xiamen University, Central University for Nationalities, Zhengzhou University, and Henan University. At the time of writing he remains executive director of the Asian History Society’s advisory committee.
From 1996 to 1998, Professor Wang supervised the excavation at imperial palace area of Yanshi City dating to Shang Dynasty, in Henan province. In the centre of the Yanshi city, Wang Wei together with his colleague uncovered an outer city constructing in early Shang dynasty, while the former imperial palace exactly right located in the central of this outer city. This work traced the ancient construction system of “palace in central” and “along central axis”. Three-courtyard quadrangle belonging to the city palace were unearthed for the first time dating to early Shang period, providing clear evidence with which to clarify the Xia and Shang Dynasties chronology. The dig was certainly an archaeological revelation of the highest importance. Indeed, shortly after, the excavation was awarded the second prize for Archaeological field work by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, and was also nominated one of the country’s top ten archaeological discoveries.
In 2000, he directed an excavation of early Western Zhou palace foundation in Zhouyuan, Shaanxi Province. The dig uncovered a cluster of large-scale symmetrical structures of Western Zhou period, and it is highly probable that they are part of an ancient ancestral temple. This, of course, provides further valuable information for those studying the history and culture of the Western Zhou. In recognition of this it was awarded the third prize for Archaeological field work by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
During 2003 and 2004, he was the director of a team of ten archaeologists, and around a hundred technicians, that set out to excavate the Yin Ruins of Anyang, in Henan Province – a colossal project that covered more than forty-thousand square meters. Together they excavated a late Shang Dynasty village, bronze workshops, family burial plots, and numerous cultural artifacts. This was the largest archaeological excavation of the Yin Ruins, since the founding of The People’s Republic in 1949, and was a great boon for those interested in late Shang Dynasty society and culture. This was a project of great scope and quality, richly deserving of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage’s second prize for Archaeological field work.
Current Research Interests
. Xia, Shang, and Zhou period archaeology.
. The origin of civilization in ancient East Asia.
. Research on cultural intercommunication in ancient East Asia.
1. National Social Science’s Key Project, Chinese Archaeology--Introduction Volume, Editor in Chief.
2. Twelfth National Five Year Plan’s Key Project, Chinese Dictionary of Archaeology, Editor in Chief.
3. Eleventh and Twelfth National Five Year Plan Scientific Support Project, Exploring The Origins of Chinese Civilization, one of the leaders responsible for the project, and also the project’s executive team leader.
4. CASS-specific major research topic, The Origin of Ancient Chinese civilization and its Early Development, Director of project.
5. Sino-Japanese Cooperation Project, Archaeological Research on Cultural Interaction in Prehistoric Northeast Asia, Director of Chinese Operations.
6. State Social Sciences Fund’s Major Project, The Origins of the Mongolian Peoples and the Yuan Dynasty Imperial Mausoleum, selected by the State Fund’s Planning Commission as the project’s Chief Expert. The post was awarded to Professor Wang in 2012, and is expected to reach completion by 2021.
To this date, Professor Wang Wei has already published two doctoral theses, and close to a hundred academic papers – twenty of which have also been published in foreign academic journals.
1. The Yamatai State and the Wo Regime in Ancient Chinese Texts, (written in Japanese, and published by Japan’s Yuuzangaku Publishing House in 1993) rigorously examines a huge amount of the available archaeological data; analyzing the process of ancient Japan’s formation and its various stages. Professor Wang’s work challenges the established view of Japan’s national formation that is held currently in many Japanese academic circles, seeing the seventh century as the period where Japan finally became a mature nation-state. Just as a person is not a fully functioning adult at birth, neither was Japan a fully formed nation-state in its earliest stages – it too had to mature, passing through its infancy and adolescence before arriving at a more fully developed form. And Professor Wang identifies this period of national maturation of Japanese ancient regal power and state between the third and the sixth century.
Throughout the book Professor Wang gives a great deal of background information about early Japan, about its social structures, and about its motive power. He outlines a few comparisons on formation of ancient regal power and state between ancient Japan and the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties of ancient China, pointing out areas of similarity and of difference, and scrutinizes the possible reasons for their existence. The book received a great deal of attention, and excellent reviews, from Japanese academics upon its publication in 1993, who hailed it as a groundbreaking achievement for the study of ancient Japanese culture. In 1995, the renowned Kyushu University of Japan awarded Professor Wang a PhD for his work, and this made him one of China’s first archaeologists to be awarded a doctorate from an overseas university.
2. Ancient Iron Objects and the Diffusion and Exchange of Iron Metallurgical Techniques in East Asia (published by China’s Social Sciences Press in 1999) is a work conceived on an awe inspiring scale, stretching from the fourth century BC to the sixth century AD. The book systematically discusses the production of iron in ancient East Asian society, the differing methods used to create it, and how it was disseminated over geographical space through time. The main points of the book are augmented by plenty of supplementary information, and key moments and historical points of interest are highlighted. This work served to fill an academic void in the archaeological study of East Asia, and was responsible for Professor Wang earning his second PhD qualification.
3. Co-authored Xia and Shang edition of Chinese Archaeology (published by China’s Social Sciences Press in December of 2003, Professor Wang is responsible for chapters eight’s two, eight and nine parts). The book was awarded the first prize in the Dr. Xia Nai Archaeology Awards of 2005, and a prize in the Guo Moruo Chinese History Awards of 2007.
4. Co-authored chapter three of the Zhou Dynasty edition of Chinese Archaeology (published by China’s Social Sciences Press in December of 2004) with Tang Jinqiong. The book won the first prize in the Guo Moruo Chinese History Awards of 2007.
Work Published (listed chronologically)
1989, Sept. Shang Wenhua Yuqi Yuanyuan Tansuo (Exploring the Origins of Shang Culture Jade Objects), in kaogu, Vol. 9
1986, Nov. Liangzhu Wenhua Yuqi Chuyi (A Discussion Regarding the Jade Cong Ornaments of China’s Liangzhu Culture), in Kaogu, Vol.11
1990, Meisongli Xing taoqi Yanjiu (Research on Misongri Pottery), in Kaoguxue Lunkao edited by Japan’s Kashihara Archaeological Institute, Vol.14.
1996, Cong Kaogu Faxian kan sishiji de dongya (Archaeological Discoveries from East Asia’s 4th Century), in Kaogu xuebao (Acta Archaeological Sinica), Vol. 3.
2001, A Comparative Study of Sino-Japanese Burial Practices, in East Asian and Japanese Archaeology,
?? Sino-Japanese Interaction in Five Kings Period of Wo, in Archaeology Quarterly (Kaoguxue Jikan), No. 33.
2004, Gongyunaqian 2000nian qianhou dafanwei wenhua tubian yuanyin tantao (Investigate the Reasons for sudden extensive Cultural Change around 2000BC), in Kaogu, Vol. 1.
2006, Juluo xingtai yanjiu yu zhonghua wenming Taiyuan (On the Settlement Patterns and Origin of Chinese Civilization), in Wenwu, Vol. 5
2006, Zhongguo gudai guojia xingcheng ganglun (Outlining the Formation of the Ancient Chinese State), in Symposium on Civilization Process of Central Plains, Science Press
2006, Guanyu zhonghua wenming qiyuan yanjiu de jige wenti (On Questions Relating to the Study of the Origin of Chinese Civilization), in Symposium of the Sino-Swedish Archaeology Forum, Science Press
2007, Cultural Exchange between the east and the west before Han dynasty, in the Mr. Maomuyabo Memorial Collection,
2008, Zhongguo kaoguxue dui lishi weiwu zhuyi yuanli de lijie he yunyong (Understanding and Applying the Principle of Historical Materialism to Chinese Archaeology), in Chinese Social Sciences Today on the 28th of February
2009, Cong zhongguo kan riben qiyudaoheshan gufen he qiyu gu muqun (Chinese Perspectives on the Sakitama Burial Mounds and Tombs of Saitama), in Kaogu, Vol.12
2010, Zhonghua wenming tanyuan gongcheng de zhuyao shouhuo (Findings from the Origins of Chinese Civilization Project), in Guangming Daily, on the 23rd of February, Professor Wang Wei and Zhao Hui co-author.
Translator: Simon Mowforth