Advanced Search
Business | Metro | Nation | World | Sports | Features | Specials | Delta Stories
Tomb yields oldest dragon
1/11/2005 7:43

A 3,700-year-old dragon statue, made of more than 2,000 pieces of turquoise, is believed by many scholars to be the oldest Chinese dragon totem.
The 70-centimeter-long dragon, an ancient symbol of royal rights and social status, was discovered in the Erlitou relics site in Yanshi City of central China's Henan Province. Many Chinese scholars believe that Erlitou is the site of the capital of China's first dynasty, the Xia Dynasty (2,100-1,600 BC).
Archeologist du Jinpeng said some dragon relics older than the figure in Erlitou have been uncovered in other places, such as a 7,000-year-old jade sculpture showing a dragon with a pig's head, found in a Neolithic site in Chifeng City, Inner Mongolia.
Those artifacts, however, had no direct connection with the ancient civilization that originated in central China, said Du.
"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 totem, 70.2cm long, looks like a python. It is composed of more than 2,000 pieces of turquoise, each only 0.1cm thin and 0.2-0.9cm long.
High-ranking noble
"It's very rare to find such delicate dragon-shaped relics from that period. And it is of great historic, artistic and scientific value," said Du.
Xu hong, discoverer of the totem, said the dragon was excavated from the tomb of a high-ranking noble in Erlitou's palace area.
The turquoise dragon was found between the shoulder and the hipbone of the tomb's occupant.
Du said it may have been embedded in a mace, or ornamental staff used in sacrificial rites.