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2021 Lecture

The First Neolithic Urban Center on China's Loess Plateau: Discovery and Interpretation of Shimao Site, Shaanxi, China

Photo for The First Neolithic Urban Center
Outer Stone Wall - Shimao Site

This lecture will be delivered in Mandarin. English interpretation will be provided by Prof. Li Min.

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The First Neolithic Urban Center on China's Loess Plateau:

Discovery and Interpretation of Shimao Site, Shaanxi, China
Zhouyong Sun

Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology, China

  The Shimao Site is located in the northern part of Loess Plateau, a region previously regarded as the frontier of Chinese civilization. The site had become well known due to large quantities of jade items uncovered there since 1970s. The recent archaeological surveys and excavations identified the Shimao site as the largest Neolithic stone walled settlement in China (>400 ha, ca. 2300-1800 cal. BCE).
Shimao was composed of a central palatial terrace surrounded by two layers of stone enclosures. The settlement was built as a sophisticated defensive system, consisting of baffled gates, gate towers, bastions, and corner towers. Shimao was a regional political and ritual center, evidenced by the discoveries of human sacrifice performed prior to the construction of the fortification, large quantities of jades (some embedded in the stonewalls), bronze metallurgy, a main gate decorated with polychrome murals, and walls furnished with anthropomorphic stone carvings.
The discovery of Shimao revealed a unique trajectory to urbanism in China. This once powerful kingdom centered at Shimao was completely unknown in ancient textual records. Its discovery therefore also raises challenges to reevaluate sociopolitical changes over a broader region on the eve of Chinese dynastic civilization.


Dr. Sun Zhouyong studied Chinese archaeology at Xiamen University in 1991 and served as an archaeologist in Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology since 1995. He obtained his PhD from the University of Australia La Trobe with a scholarship offered by the ARC in 2007. He has been engaged in archaeological surveys and excavations for more than 50 projects. The Shimao Archaeology Project directed by Dr. Sun has made great contribution to the origin of the Chinese Early Civilization, and also was awarded the titles of "World Archaeological Discovery" and “Top Ten Archaeological Discovery in China in 2012 and 2018”. With a broad international perspective, Dr. Sun is committed to promoting the exchanges and cooperation between Shaanxi Archaeology and cultural institutions overseas.


Li Min, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology; Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA. His areas of interest include: Social archaeology and cultural history of continental East Asia focusing on emergence early civilizations in Neolithic and Bronze Age China. Historical anthropology, material culture, and conceptions of the past in early modern China. Landscape archaeology, integrating systematic survey, analysis of archaeological ceramics, remote sensing imagery, traditional studies of stone inscriptions and numismatics.


About Sammy Lee Lecture Series
First presented in 1982 in celebration of his 80th birthday, the Sammy Yukuan Lee Lectures on Chinese Art and Archaeology honors the life and philanthropy of respected businessman, art collector, and Chinese art authority, Sammy Yukuan Lee. This series is presented annually by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies with support from the Sammy Yukuan Lee Foundation.

Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, we have temporarily shifted the lecture series to an online Zoom-based platform for 2021. This year we are pleased to feature two renowned speakers in their respective fields, Hsueh-Man Shen (Ehrenkranz Associate Professor in World Art, NYU) and Dr. Zhouyong Sun (Shaanxi Province Academy of Archeology). Each speaker will lead a graduate workshop and deliver a public lecture, with Professor Shen speaking on November 5-6, 2021 and Dr. Sun on November 19-20, 2021. All events are free and open to the public.

The Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture Series features a yearly lecture and seminar presented by leading scholars on Chinese art and archaeology.
Event Information

    Friday, November 19, 2021
    4:00 PM
Other Years

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