ZHENGZHOU, Oct. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- A 3,700-year-old
antique in the shape of a dragon, made up of over 2,000 pieces of turquoise, is
believed by many Chinese scholars as the oldest Chinese dragon totem.
The antique was discovered in the
Erlitou relics site in YanshiCity of central China's Henan Province. Many
scholars believe that Erlitou is the site of the capital of the Xia
Dynasty(2,100 BC-1,600 BC), China's first dynasty.
"Although some dragon-shaped relics older than the
antique in Erlitou have been uncovered in other places, such as the
7,000-year-old jade sculpture showing a dragon with a pig head anda tight-lipped
snout, found in a Neolithic site in Chifeng City, Inner Mongolia, they had no
direct connection with the ancient civilization that originated in central
China," said Chinese archaeologist Du Jinpeng.
"Only the dragon discovered in central China had a
direct link with the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties and came down in one
continuous line," said Du, a researcher with the Institute of Archaeology of the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Therefore, the dragon antique in Erlitou is the
lineal origin of the dragon totem of the Chinese nation," Du said.
The dragon totem, 70.2 cm long, looks like a python.
It is madeup of more than 2,000 pieces of turquoise, each only 0.1 cm thin and
0.2 to 0.9 cm long.
"It's very rare to find such delicate dragon-shaped
relics during that period. And it is of great historic, artistic and scientific
value," said Du.
Xu Hong, discoverer of the dragon totem, said the
antique was excavated from a tomb of a high-ranking noble in the palace area of
Erlitou. The turquoise dragon was found between the shoulder and the hipbone of
the owner of the tomb.
Du Jinpeng inferred that the totem should have been
embedded onsomething like a mace used in sacrificial rites. The corpse in
thetomb might have belonged to an official in charge of the rites.
"The owner of the tomb must have been put in an
important position by the king of the Xia Dynasty, since he was buried in the
palace area and allowed to take the mace to the other world after he died," said
Dragon images have also been found in other sites,
such as pottery and a bronze tablet, at the site of Erlitou. Some of the dragons
look like snakes, but others are more like today's dragon image with bird's
claws and fish's fins.
Experts say the ancient Chinese nation began to form
at that time with Erlitou as a center. All the relics with dragon images were
found in the palace area. The remains of a bronze foundry andthe site for
sacrificial rites, which had a close connection with the king and the nobles of
the Xia Dynasty.
"It shows that dragon had become a symbol of royal
rights and social status at that time, and the concept was passed on from
generation to generation for several thousands years in Chinese history," Du