Ancient stones shed new light on a grand design

Two large stones believed to be ancient pillar bases were spotted at Nanliangyuan residential area in Songjiang by an antiques enthusiast.

Ti Gong

Two ancient pillar bases 

Ti Gong

Shu Pinyuan stands by two stone pillar bases. 

Two large stones believed to be ancient pillar bases were spotted at Nanliangyuan residential area in Songjiang by an antiques enthusiast.

Shu Pinyuan, a resident of Nanliangyuan in Zhongshan Neighborhood, discovered the stones lying in debris near a construction site.

Afraid that they might be damaged, Shu alerted the Songjiang official, and staff from Songjiang Museum arrived at the scene. They deduced that the stones might be pillar bases from an ancient admiral’s palace or a Buddhist hall.

“We can’t make a conclusion yet what kind of a building the bases belong to,” said the museum’s Wang Xiaowei.

With a history of more than 5,000 years, pillar bases, or sangpan, are stone blocks placed under pillars to assure solidity of a building and protect pillars from damp.

The two stone bases found by Shu were basin-like and carved with flower patterns. With an edge length of 120 centimeters and a diameter of 56 centimeters, the bases fit a description in “Yingzao Fashi,” the first official treatise on architecture and craftsmanship in China. The size of the bases also suggests the supported architecture was grand.

The Nanliangyuan residential quarter where the bases were found used to be the private mansion of a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) official. It was later adapted into an admiral’s office in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Undergoing renovation recently, Nanliangyuan saw the removal of weeds and therefore the unearthing of the two bases. The bases are now on display at Songjiang Museum.

The Zhongshan Neighborhood has been undergoing renovation work since 2016, with old houses being replaced by new, adding vigor to the area. Shu, however, visits construction sites day and night to save bricks, tiles or stones discarded by workers but which he thinks have historic value.

“I sensed the historic value of the two bases for their huge size and the patterns on them,” Shu said. “Patterns can reveal cultures of ancient people. The two pillar bases have withstood quite a period of time.”

Shu’s interest in antiques dates back to his schooldays. He feels antiques are treasures left to us by our ancestors.

In 2015 Shu donated 260 old bricks he had collected to the district archives.

“It is my duty and responsibility to collect various bricks. I chose to donate bricks and tiles to our government for I think they can be best preserved by their efforts. The bricks and tiles can be a channel through which people know more about Songjiang, love the place and feel willing to do research on it,” Shu said.



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