The Ruins of Ancient Capital City of the Zheng and Han States in Xinzheng , Henan Province
The ruins of ancient capital city of the Zheng and Han States was located at the joint of river Shuangji (Ancient river Wei) and the Yellow River (Ancient river Qin), near the city gate of Xinzheng, Henan province.During the late Western Zhou period, the Zheng State established its capital here. After the Han state overthrew the Zheng State, it moved its capital there. The capital city was abandoned when the Qin State conquered the Han State. Once acting as the capital of Zheng and Han states, as well as the economic and cultural center for over 500 years, it was named as Zheng-Han Ancient City. The ancient capital was divided into the west and the east part. The west part was a palace, where imperial palaces and most mansions of the noble were concentrated distributed. The east part was the outer city with a large area, where the noble cemetery of the Zheng State, handicraft workshop areas, dwelling area, religious ceremonial area and other areas were distributed. From 2016 to 2017, Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology conducted the excavation to the northern city gate and No.3 horse and chariot pit of the Zheng State, all of which are located in the East part of the Zheng-Han ancient city.
Aerial photo of the Northern City Gate
New Archaeological Discovery of the Northern City Gate
So far, runways (constructed roads with artificial wheel-ruts), water channels, moats, barbican entrances, ash pits, wells, tombs and other archaeology features from the Spring and Autumn, Warring States period to the Ming and Qing dynasties have been found.
A total of 14 roads of different periods were found, nine of them belong to certain period, including one of the Spring and Autumn Period, two of the Warring States period, one of the Han dynasty, two of the Song dynasty, and three of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The road of the Spring and Autumn period was narrow, only two meters’ wide, pottery shard paved. The road was pointing to the gap of the north wall, which was speculated to be the land gate of north gate. There were two roads of the Warring States, one broke the road of the Spring and Autumn period directly, in the direction of the southeast and northwest, in width of 2.1 to 2.9 meters; the other one was a ring road, 4.4 meters’ wide (the widest part was 8.5 meters), and 51 meters’ long.
At the east of the road of the Spring and Autumn, a water channel in the direction of the southwest to northeast was found, paralleled to the road and entered into the city. The width of the water channel was about 14 meters (the deepest part was about 4.8 meters’ depth). According to the carbon analysis of the sediment in the ditch and water channel, the date was about 700 BC to 600 BC, the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period. Also, the interaction of the water channel and the gap of the north wall might be the Water Gate of the Zheng state at that time.
The main road remains
Outside of the barbican entrance about 10 meters, a moat in the direction of northwest to southeast was found, 50 meters’ wide (the deepest part was about 4.3 meters). At the bottom layer of the moat found black sediment deposit. The ditch at the south of the moat was steep while the north one had gentle slope, which might be related to the marshland at the north of the moat. After exploration, the moat, water channel, and the road of the Spring and Autumn Period were interacted at the gap of the northeast part.
Outside of the gap of the walls about 50 meters, a rammed building in the direction of the southeast and northwest was found. The plane was rectangular, the top was about 32 meters’ wide, 8 meters’ high, and about 72 meters’ long. Preliminary estimated that the building and north wall constructed the barbican entrance, and the gap between might be the gate. At the gate, structured rammed building ruins and the rubble layer of the Warring States period was found, might built for defense.
The water channel and road remians
North Gate of Different Periods
According to the stratigraphic relationships and assemblages, it was estimated that the north gate was built in the Spring and Autumn period, and the defense system was simple at that time. Then, the road and the water channel were paralleled, in the direction of southwest to northeast, they passed through the north gate into the city, and there might be a land gate and a water gate.
At the Warring States period, the north wall was repaired in a large area, and the north part of the wall and the rammed building constructed the wall of the barbican entrance, used for defense. Apart from that, partitioned wall was added to better protect the palace building of the west. Two more roads was added as well, one was a ring road at the south and north of the moat, the other broken the road of the Spring and Autumn period, in the direction of the southeast and northwest, passed the barbican entrance (which might be the gate of the barbican), crossed with the ring road, which constructed the defense system of the north gate in the Warring States period.
Distant view of the No.3 Horse and Chariot Pit
Important Archaeological Achievements in the No.3 Horse and Chariot Pit of the Zheng State
No.3 Horse and Chariot Pit was an earthen shaft pit in the direction of the south and north, at the four corner of the pit there was footprints for ancient people to climb up and down. The pit was buried under the cultural layer of the Warring States period, and the total number of horses buried in the pit may exceed 124. They were all in the post of side-on, heading to the west and the feet to the south, 5 columns in the direction of the west and east, end to end. Limbs were straight or bent, lied on the torso or lower limb of the horse beside. Because of the large number, the horse bones were intensively laid. At the south, four wooden chariots and five wheel traces were found on the top of the horse bones.
According to the arrangement of densely horse bones with only four chariots, and the rule that the main chamber of the Zheng state was usually located at the east of the chariot pit, it may belong to the lord of Zheng State from the late Spring and Autumn Period as an accompany burial pit. After identification, a large number of the horses were stallions at the age of seven and eight.
No.3 Horse and Chariot pit and the large tomb of Lord Zheng altogether buried more than 48 chariots, 124 horses. The chariots and horse bones unearthed provided important materials for studying the chariot and horse burial system, burial customs and characteristics of the horses of the Zhou dynasty.
In general, as the ancient capital of the Zheng and Han States, Zheng-Han Ancient City witnessed the flourishing and the fall of the history in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. The archaeological discoveries provided valuable materials for studying the shape and layout, defense system, burial culture of the ancient capital of different periods. (Translator: Wang Jue Photograph:China Cultural Relics News)