The Hot Zone
China's newly announced air defense identification zone over the East China Sea aims to shore up national security
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

cheap eyeglasses
Market Avenue

UPDATED: April 9, 2012 NO. 15 APRIL 12, 2012
Archeological Wonder
Chinese archeologists discover thousands of priceless Buddha statues in north China
By Bai Shi

EXCAVATION: A buried pit is found by archeologists at the Yecheng Relics Site in Hebei Province (CFP)

On March 19, archeologists of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) announced in Beijing that they had discovered nearly 3,000 Buddha statues dating back to the Eastern Wei Dynasty (534-550) and the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) at the Yecheng Relics Site. Yecheng is a 2,500-year-old ancient city located in what is now Linzhang County in north China's Hebei Province. The number of Buddha statues unearthed in this pit is the largest find in the past seven decades in China.

The archeological excavation, which began on January 10 this year, was jointly made by the Institute of Archeology of the CASS and the Hebei Provincial Cultural Relics Institute. Through preliminary investigations, the team found a huge pit filled with Buddha statues. About 2,895 Buddha icons and thousands of unnumbered fragments have been catalogued. Most of the statues are made of white marble and a few of bluestone. Procedures for color protection, consolidation, fragment assembly, and a series of preservation plans amount to a massive undertaking.

Unprecedented discovery

"It is the largest excavation of Buddha statues since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, providing valuable physical evidence for the study of the transmission and development of Buddhism in China," said Zhu Yanshi, head of the exploration team in a press conference. Zhu is a research fellow at the Institute of Archeology of the CASS.

"We have been looking for the outer wall relics of ancient Yecheng for several years," Zhu said.

Zhu said the discovery was significant for four principal reasons.

First, archeologists are able to make a precise judgment of the location of the pit. It is situated inside the south wall of Yecheng. The earth layers and archeological features are clear, providing clues for archeologists to understand the construction, scale and evolution of ancient Yecheng. The discovery may also provide clues for other archeological studies of Yecheng.

Second, the sheer volume of the statues, 2,895, is exceptional. All the Buddha statues are buried at distinct locations, showing that the damage to the icons was organized, systematic and on a large scale. It provides archeologists with more evidence to study Buddhist icon demolition movements and the practice of burying desecrated statues during these periods of history.

Third, the unearthed statues have a range of themes and sizes and demonstrate exquisite craftsmanship. Many of the statues are screen-backed. The figures depicted are remarkably diverse including Sakyamuni, Amitabha, Maitreya, and Avalokitesvara. The statues vary in size from 20 cm long to the size of an actual person, said Zhang Wenrui, an official with the Hebei Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau. Most of them have traces of their original color and gold leaf, even though more than 1,000 years have passed. The discovery supports Yecheng's status as a center of Buddhism and culture in the northern part of China during the late Northern Qi Dynasty.

1   2   Next  

Top Story
-Protecting Ocean Rights
-Partners in Defense
-Fighting HIV+'s Stigma
-HIV: Privacy VS. Protection
-Setting the Tone
Related Stories
-The National Museum of China Reopens
-Deep Sea Treasure
-Treasures Faraway From Home
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved