From November 2016 to April 2017, the South Square Site of Kaiyuan Temple in Zhengding, Hebei Province has been excavated by Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics. The excavation covers 12000 square meters. Excavation mainly focused on three aspects in terms of successive architectural layouts of Kaiyuan Temple, rammed city walls of late Tang and Five Dynasties as well as living remains of residents from late Tang and Five Dynasties, Song and Jin Dynasties to Ming and Qing Dynasties. A series of important archeological materials were found from this season’s work. 7 cultural layers of historical periods were discovered, including Tang Dynasty, Five Dynasties, Northern Song period, Jin Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty and etc.
The distribution map of South Square Site of Kaiyuan Temple
Rich cultural remains were found during archaeological excavation. 94 features of different kinds were discovered, which could mainly divide into 3 categories.
Architectural system of temples in Kaiyuan Temple
Architectural remains from different historical periods were situated in south side of present Kaiyuan Temple and northeast part of Kaiyuan Temple’s South Square Site, mainly including temple architectures of Kaiyuan Temple. So far, remains from middle period of Tang Dynasty and Jin and Yuan Periods were found.
A ditch（G2）from middle period of Tang Dynasty were found, 13m wide and about 1.5~2.15m deep. In its west end, there were pond remains being connected with the ditch, so the ditch might be an aqueduct inside Kaiyuan Temple. The discoveries provide an important clue for the layout of Kaiyuan Temple in Tang Dynasty.
South gate remains
There is a building foundation (F2), a wall base remain (Q2) and a road (L2) from Jin and Yuan periods. Only a passage in front of F2’s door was remained. F2 was preliminarily predicted to be south gate of Kaiyuan Temple from Jin and Yuan periods. On the east side of the passage, there was a wall base (Q2), about 1m wide. It’s probably courtyard wall of Kaiyuan Temple. In front of F2’s passage and south of wall base, there was an east-west oriented road of Jin and Yuan periods, 10m wide. It should be main road in front of the door of Kaiyuan Temple. The discoveries of south gate, courtyard wall and main road in front of the gate of Kaiyuan Temple basically figured out the south boundary of Kaiyuan Temple in Jin and Yuan periods. After F2 was destroyed in the end of Yuan Dynasty, south wall and south gate of Kaiyuan Temple were disappeared. South boundary of Kaiyuan Temple during Ming and Qing periods seems to be the same as it look at present.
City wall defense system of late Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties
Main part of city wall defense system of late Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties were rammed earth wall remains, which were situated in the middle and south part of excavation area. Architectural remains of rammed wall (Q1) could divide into two periods. In the first period, there were rammed earth walls. While in the second period, there were brick-packed walls outside of rammed earth city platform. Beside, part of rammed earth walls was repaired in the second period.
Rammed earth wall was “T” shaped in plane and the section was trapezoidal. According to architectural structure and form of rammed earth wall, it was north wall of the city. Construction time of rammed earth wall is preliminarily predicted to be late Tang period. Brick-packed wall is later than rammed wall, belongs to Five Dynasties period. City wall defense system had been destroyed since Northern Song period. Bricks and earth of the wall were taken to build residents’ living buildings. City walls dating back to Yuan and Ming Dynasties were almost ruined underneath the surface.
According to results of excavation and drilling as well as related documents, it's preliminarily predicted that rammed earth wall was city wall remains of Zhending City of late Tang period.
Residents’ architectures and street system from Tang to Song Dynasties, Jin Dynasties to Ming and Qing Dynasties
Residential living remains from Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties to Song and Jin Dynasties to Ming and Qing Dynasties were mainly distributed in southern part of the site, ranging from housing remains, well, trash pits and storage pits. All housing remains discovered so far belonged to Song, Jin, Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Most of them were situated in south part of excavation area and south side of rammed city wall. There were residential buildings, shops and folk temples and so on. There were a set of medical tools being found inside F1, including pottery mortar(s), pottery pot(s) and porcelain case. Therefore, F1 is predicted to be a medical room (or a pharmacy) in Song and Jin periods. F6, F8 and F9 were residential housing remains of Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Besides, there were 3 folk temples (F7, F11 and F5) of Song, Jin and Yuan periods being discovered from the excavation. In F11, there were 4 niche remains for statue of the Buddha. Some of them have painted patterns on the outside surfaces of niches. Broken limestone figurines were unearthed from niches. F11 is predicted to be remains of a temple from Song and Jin periods. Hundreds of artifacts were uncovered from F5, including religious devices, such as incense burners, religious figurines and so on. F5 could be remains of a temple from Yuan and Ming periods. Among three temples, F7 was separated from Kaiyuan Temple by rammed earth city walls. F11 and F5 were constructed after abandonment of city wall and all placed outside south wall of Kaiyuan Temple in Jin and Yuan periods. Therefore, these 3 temples do not have direct relationships with Kaiyuan Temple. F7, F11 and F5 were probably folk temples, which had been repaired in different periods, carrying on one after another.
Wells found in Kaiyuan Temple’s South Square Site were all brick-constructed wells from Tang Dynasty to Song and Jin Dynasties. Most features were ash pits from Tang Dynasty to Ming and Qing Dynasties. According to their functions, there are mainly three kinds of pits. They are regular pits, irregular trash pits or pits for obtaining earth and storage pits.
Plenty of important cultural relics unearthed from excavation
More than 2000 restored artifacts were uncovered from archaeological excavation. They can divide into four main categories, including daily-used utensils, architectural components, religious relics and handicraft production. Most of them are ceramic and clay artifacts. Besides, there are a few made of bone, stone, copper and so on. They belong to times from Five Dynasties period to Ming and Qing Dynasties.
White glaze porcelain plate with peony pattern
Daily-used utensils potteries and porcelains were the mainstreams of unearthed artifacts. Many porcelain artifacts were from Jingjing Kiln, Ding Kiln, Cizhou Kiln, Xing Kiln, Jingdezhen Kiln, Jun Kiln, Longquan Kiln, Yaozhou Kiln and etc. There were various kinds of shapes with complete chronological sequences. Many are very exquisite.
Artifacts made of other raw materials ranged from copper artifacts, such as copper mirrors, copper combs, copper hairpins, copper scissors, and bone artifacts, including bone combs, bone hairpins, ear pickers and etc. Besides, there were ornaments including agate beads, crystal beads, unfinished hairpins and so on as well as bronze coins from different dynasties, such as Han, Tang, Five Dynasties, Northern Song, Jin and Qing periods. Among them, copper coins from Northern Song and Tang Dynasties took the largest percentage.
Architectural components found from excavation were mainly from Tang, Five Dynasties, Song and Jin periods. They include lotus pattern eave tiles, animal face pattern eave tiles, round tiles, pan-roofing tiles and dragon-shaped architectural components and so on.
Zoroastrian red clay ornament
Religious Relics from Northern dynasty to Song and Yuan Dynasties were unearthed in Kaiyuan Temple South Square Site. They contained broken exquisite white marble figurines, copper Buddha, porcelain figurines and so on. Religious relics of Song, Jin and Yuan periods were mainly found from two temples, F5 and F11. A series of broken limestone figurines were unearthed from F11. Besides, there were red clay figurines, porcelain figurines, incense burners in remains of residential buildings and cultural layers of Song, Jin and Yuan periods. A red clay plaque with characteristic patterns of Zoroastrianism was discovered in cultural layers of Ming and Qing periods.
Handicraft and business artifacts were mainly from Song, Jin and Yuan dynasties. Artifacts related to smelting contain iron pots, iron crucibles and pottery crucibles in various shapes. Moreover, there were residue and sinter from smelting. There were artifacts related to bone industry ranging from plenty of abandoned bone materials and a few unfinished bone combs in the ash pits. There were business artifacts, too. Medical tools were found in F1 and copper weighter from Jin and Yuan dynasties were uncovered from cultural layers. Besides, porcelain artifacts from different Kilns found in the site could prove prosperous state of business trade at that time.
Three systems of features are figured out in Kaiyuan Temple’s South Square Site by archaeological excavation. A preliminary understanding of site formation processes is gained. City wall remains from late Tang period and Five Dynasties period and residential architectural remains from Five Dynasties period to Ming and Qing periods provide important materials for a better understanding of evolution of city layout of Zhengding ancient city. City wall from late Tang period was arranged in the south side of Kaiyuan Temple, restricting the development of Kaiyuan Temple from further southern place. The wall was the mark of south boundary of Kaiyuan Temple shrinking to the north. Archaeological discoveries of smelting, bone industry and business remains mixed in residential building give strong evidences for collapse of li-fang Units (residential area) System.
More than 2000 artifacts uncovered from the excavation were one of the most significant achievements. They are important materials for research on daily life of people from late Tang period to Ming and Qing Dynasties, and will provide important clues for discussing business activities in Zhengding ancient city and trade routes at that time. (Translator: Ma Huanhuan Image:China cultural relics news)