DIG­GING THROUGH TIME

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

New ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­hi­bi­tion sheds light on how Shang­hai was an in­flu­en­tial mar­itime trad­ing port as long as a thou­sand years ago “

view ar­ti­facts that had yet to be re­stored.

“We de­cided to quickly show­case the new dis­cov­er­ies be­cause these find­ings are piv­otal to the un­der­stand­ing of the city. The story of Qin­g­long town will fill a gap in his­to­ri­ans’ knowl­edge of Shang­hai,” said Chen.

“Peo­ple were very in­ter­ested in the finds. Qin­g­long town used to be a rel­a­tively un­known part of Shang­hai, but now we of­ten come across peo­ple who drive over just so they can check out the relics. The ex­hi­bi­tion would have been bet­ter if we took longer to pre­pare for the show, but the en­thu­si­asm among the public would have faded by then.”

One of the most im­por­tant dis­cov­er­ies in the lat­est phase of the arche­o­log­i­cal project is Long­ping Tem­ple.

With the devel­op­ment of trad­ing and the growth in pop­u­la­tion, Bud­dhism thrived in Qin­g­long town. Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, the town was known to have seven pago­das and 13 tem­ples.

Chen said that the pagoda of Long­ping Tem­ple marked a piv­otal po­si­tion which arche­ol­o­gists used as ref­er­ence dur­ing the map­ping of Qin­g­long town’s lay­out. An­cient doc­u­ments found that the pagoda used to serve as a nav­i­ga­tional bea­con for sailors, an­other piece of ev­i­dence that proves Qin­g­long town’s sta­tus as a mar­itime trad­ing port.

Be­lieved to be built be­tween 1023 and 1032, the oc­tagon-shaped Long­ping pagoda is a rare ex­am­ple of an­cient Chi­nese Bud­dhism ar­chi­tec­ture. In or­der to present the in­tri­ca­cies of the pagoda’s foun­da­tion, Shang­hai Mu­seum cre­ated a replica for the ex­hi­bi­tion.

The tiles and bricks re­trieved from the pagoda ru­ins sug­gested that it was built with do­na­tions from be­liev­ers. Many of the bricks have en­grav­ings that doc­u­ment the name of the donor and the size of their of­fer­ings.

Some of the most bril­liant pieces were un­earthed from the un­der­ground cham­ber of the pagoda, and they in­clude Asoka pago­das made of gold­plated lead and bronze, and sets of boxes placed within one an­other.

Open­ing the cover of the main box, which was made of stone, arche­ol­o­gists found a wooden box in the shape of a cof­fin that con­tained a badly rusted iron box. Within this iron box was an outer cof­fin made of gold-plated wood and a sil­ver in­ner cof­fin.

Also found within these boxes were rosaries made of crys­tal and gilt bronze, as well as sari­ras kept in a bronze jar. These bead-shaped ob­jects were be­lieved to be relics of Bud­dhist spir­i­tual mas­ters.

PHO­TOS BY GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

The Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Dis­cov­er­ies from the His­tor­i­cal Site of Qin­g­long Town in Shang­hai” ex­hi­bi­tion is now be­ing held in Shang­hai Mu­seum. In­set: Staff work­ing at the his­tor­i­cal site of Qin­g­long town in Qingpu district.

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