Ancient cliff carving newly discovered at Tianma Hill

Tan Weiyun
Artist Pang Fei from the Shanghai Academy of Painting stumbled upon the carving known as 'Làng Jiǎ Yán' while sketching in the mountain's serene environs last month.
Tan Weiyun
Ancient cliff carving newly discovered at Tianma  Hill

The thread-bound edition of "Gan Mountain Chronicles," edited by Zhou Houdi in 1786

A major discovery has been made at Tianma Hill, where a cliff carving from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) has been found.

Pang Fei, an artist from the Shanghai Academy of Painting, stumbled upon an ancient cliff carving known as "Làng Jiǎ Yán" while sketching in the hill's serene environs last month. Further investigation by Chang Yong, vice president of the Humanities and Creativity Institute of Songjiang, confirmed that the carving dates back to the Southern Song or Ming (1368-1644) dynasties.

Tianma Hill is home to the famous scenic spot "Horse Drinking Pond." It was near this landmark, hidden behind moss-covered cliffs, that the carving was found. It was not immediately noticeable, requiring a closer look to be properly identified.

Chang's thorough examination and review of historical documents revealed that the inscription "Làng Jiǎ Yán" only appeared in the Qing Dynasty's Zhou Houdi's "Gan Mountain Chronicles."

The term "làng" means to air or expose to sunlight in the Songjiang dialect. "Làng Jiǎ" refers to a practice among ancient generals to display their armor (jiǎ) as a sign of loyalty and gratitude to their sovereign. This act also symbolically represented a return to civilian life.

Further research suggests that the carving was likely made in 1157 by General Zhou Wenda during the construction of the Huzhu Tower at Tianma Hill. The carvings' latest possible date is around 1643, the period covered by Ming Dynasty Lu Tingzhen's "Gan Mountain Miscellaneous Records." It is believed the inscriptions were made to commemorate the achievements of Zhou family's ancestors.

"The discovery of the 'Làng Jiǎ Yán' cliff carving not only corroborates the records in the 'Gan Mountain Chronicles' but also adds a new cultural attraction to Tianma Hill, enriching the heritage of Songjiang," Chang said.

Special Reports

Top