Banpo Neolithic Village
Witness of Ancient Chinese Civilization

Banpo Village

Interested in ancient Chinese civilization? Banpo Neolithic Village is a place you must visit. It is located in Xian where we can trace early civilizations in China back to over 6,000 years from now.

Banpo is the most famous archaeological site associated with the Yangshao culture.

It is the first archaeology museum in the world. That means it is the first museum built at the site of archaeology. The museum was opened in 1958. In the past 47 years, there has been an average of 46,000 visitors per month.

Banpo Neolithic Village – General Overview

  • An oval shape village found at the rural area of Xian
  • Total area around 50,000 square meters, enclosed by a dry moat
  • More than 500 buildings of various kind
  • Five groups of houses, each consists of big, medium and small sizes
  • 200 warehouses
  • Six pottery workshops
  • 250 graves at the burial ground
Archaeologists believe there were several tribes living together to form a village.

In a typical Banpo visit, you must observe these from early civilizations in China:

  • Features of a matriarchal society
  • Mode of ancient burial
  • Mode of ancient marriage
  • Creative tools and artifacts

Matriarchal Society

Banpo Neolithic Village keeps us abreast of ancient Chinese civilization. It has distinct features of a matriarchal society. The burial ground at Banpo is a wordless handbook telling us this.

Ancient Chinese Civilization - Burial

In a matriarchal society, male belong to his mother’s family. Once died, he can only be buried together with other male members in the same family. Evidence of such is shown in the burial ground at Banpo.

Among the 174 adult graves found, there were two graves that buried multiple bodies. One of them buried four young female of similar age. The other buried two adult male. All others were buried single. Single burial and homo-sex multi-body burial are typical features of a matriarchal society.

No sign of male and female buried together. Why is it like this? We’ll need to take a look at the mode of marriage in ancient China culture.

Ancient Chinese Civilization - Marriage

It was kind of a come-and-go style. In Chinese we call it walk-in marriage (走婚). Walk-in at night, walk-out in the morning. It is scary comparing to today’s marriage. However as a matter of ancient China culture, it did exist for thousands of years before it gradually evolutes to one-husband-one-wife marriage like nowadays.

Today, we have live proof of this ancient mode of marriage. Mosuo (摩梭) people at the bank of Lugu Lake (盧沽湖) in Yunnan (雲南) are still practicing this mode of ancient marriage. This is exactly Banpo villagers’ mode of marriage 6,000 years ago.

Adult female has their individual rooms in order to receive their boy friends. Male walks in to a female’s home at night to have partnership with her and walks out in the next morning and goes back to his mother’s home for daily life.

There is no permanent partnership. Both male and female can have as many partners as they want. Hence children can only recognize their mothers and are unable to identify their fathers.

If love is developed in the process, the relationship might last longer, however still without any commitment.

Another supporting evidence for a matriarchal society is the rich grave goods of female. Even very young female had far more grave goods than adult male.

In a grave of a 3-4 year old female, 79 grave goods were found. (Male adults had an average of 2.6 only). In another 16-17 year old female grave, there were 22 grave goods and 8,577 bone beads found. All these showed the richness and senior status of their mothers. At Banpo, female was the head of family and tribe.

Ancient Chinese Civilization – Daily Life

Banpo sickle

Banpo villagers’ economic activities include hunting, farming and fishing.

There were 5,275 farming tools being unearthed, including stone axes, stone sickles etc.

Fishing tools included arrows, long rods, hooks etc.

Cooking wares demonstrated the use of fire and steam. People didn’t eat raw any more.

Ancient Chinese Civilization – Wisdom of Physics

Banpo sharp bottom bottle

Please do not leave Banpo without examining the sharp bottom water bottle.

The sharp bottom bottle is the hallmark of Banpo Village. It is famous worldwide not only because of its graceful streamline shape, it demonstrates the physics knowledge of the villagers. It triggers lots of researches and debates about its design and what kind of physics theory it applied.

Nowadays it might look odd to have a sharp bottom bottle. But in 6,000 years ago, it was an extremely creative tool.

When you drop the bottle in water, it slants and let water in. When it is filled, it stands upright automatically. Water won’t spill because the mouth of the bottle is small and the neck is thin. With ears on both sides tied with strings, it is extremely easy to carry. If tired, just insert the sharp bottom into the sandy ground and it stands firm.

Every visitor to Banpo is deeply impressed by this scientific invention from 6,000 years back.

Ancient Chinese Civilization – Art and Culture

Banpo early writings

Artifacts of all kind were found at Banpo. Villagers were knowledgeable in making various kinds of potteries for daily use. They even decorated them with colors and patterns like animals, birds, human faces. Beautifully designed necklets, bracelets and ear rings made of animal bones, teeth and shells were mostly found in female graves.

Archaeologists believe that early writings did exist in Banpo. Engraved symbols could be classified into 27 categories. They were believed to be the earliest mode of writing, even earlier than oracles of Shang Dynasty.

Anna’s Notes
If you are interested in ancient Chinese civilization, Banpo Neolithic Village is a place you can’t afford to miss. Your Xian visit is incomplete without it.

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Xian Incident | Big Wild Goose Pagoda
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