DIGGING THROUGH TIME
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.
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.