Palace system discovered in 5,300-year-old ancient capital

China has uncovered its earliest palace, in central China's Henan Province, extending the country's history of constructing palaces by about 1,000 years.

China has uncovered its earliest palace, in central China’s Henan Province, extending the country’s history of constructing palaces by about 1,000 years.

The ancient palace found at the Shuanghuaishu site is believed to provide more key proof of the origin of China’s more-than-5,000-year-old civilization, said Wang Wei, president of the Chinese Society of Archeology.

The ruins were built on a rammed earth high platform covering around 4,300 square meters, including foundations for buildings.

The excavation has unveiled the clear layouts of two compounds among the structures built on the platform. At the western half of the platform lies a rectangular courtyard, outside the south walls where a nearly 880-square-meter grand square was unearthed. The discovery suggests a typical ancient palace layout, where the administrative area for the royal court sat in front of the residences.

The other courtyard, on the eastern half of the site, covers around 1,500 square meters, with three stately gateways, according to Gu Wanfa, director of the Zhengzhou Municipal Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology.

“The spatial arrangement of such large courtyards and the palace city placing the administrative area in front of the royal family’s living area created a precedent for the palace system in China,” said He Nu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, adding that the layouts directly affected the capital city planning in the following dynasties including the Xia (2070-1600 BC) and Shang (1600-1046 BC).

Previously, the the country’s earliest ancient palace was found at the Erlitou relics site, which served as the capital for the middle and late periods of the Xia Dynasty, China’s earliest-known dynasty.

The latest discovery is expected to bring the establishment of China’s palace system to an earlier date.

With an area of 1.17 million square meters, the Shuanghuaishu site is on the south bank of the Yellow River in the township of Heluo, the city of Gongyi, Henan. It was the capital city of an ancient “Heluo Kingdom” dating back around 5,300 years, testifying to the origin of the Chinese civilization.

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