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The Summary of “A Theoretical Construction of Deep Cognition of Chinese Culture From A Perspective of Literary Anthropology”

On the afternoon of May 10, 2019, the 15th lecture of the Archaeology Lecture Series  was held in Room 403 of Xuezheng Building in Xianlin Campus of Nanjing Normal University. Professor Ye ShuXian,  the director of the research center of Literary Anthropology of Shanghai Jiaotong University, gave a lecture entitled “A Theoretical Construction of Deep Cognition of Chinese Culture From A Perspective of Literary Anthropology”. Associate professor Xu Feng who came from the College of Social Development of Nanjing Normal University hosted this lecture. Professor Tang HuiSheng from the College of History and Culture of Hebei Normal University, Professor Chen Xi from the College of Social Development of Nanjing Normal University, some undergraduates and postgraduates from the Department of Culture and Exposition attended this lecture.

At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Ye ShuXian said that Chinese culture was related to sacred material, which lasted from at least five or six thousand years ago to the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. The Chinese character “Guo” stands for the city, while the outer frame denotes the wall of city.Taking Nanjing as an example, there is Xuanwu Lake in the north and Zhuque Gate in the south, which embodies the cosmic code of Chinese mythology. Before the existence of Oracle Bone Inscriptions, beliefs and concepts, as the most important thing of the nation, had been inherited. Hongshan Culture Jades have been unearthed from the Qin tombs in Guanzhong, Shanxi Province, which indicates that jade as a treasure has been spreading in ancient times. In the story of Hongmen Banquet, Liu Bang was able to get away from the situation where he was at an absolute disadvantage because he presented Xiang Yu with a pair of jade pieces. Jade piece is the symbol of supreme power. Xiang Yu understood the meaning of jade and eventually gave Liu Bang a way out, which showed that Xiang Yu was a devout jade believer.

There must be core elements of belief behind the establishment of a nation.This core belief existed long before the emergence of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism and it was manifested as jade gods in prehistoric times. In ancient times, both China and the West regarded owls as gods. The sign of Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, was the owl. The cloud-shaped jade carvings (owl-shaped jade cards) of Hongshan Culture represented the abstract image of the owl, which was created by the most pious believers. Unlike the ancient times, owls have been demonized since the Western Zhou Dynasty. Today, people can hardly regard owls as a kind of divine bird. Classic of Mountains and Seas retains a large number of relics of belief in ancient times, but in the age of imperial examinations, it was regarded as a fictional work. The motif of double image in the Classic of Mountains and Seas has existed in the Hongshan culture more than 5,000 years ago. To deeply understand Chinese Cultural Theory, we must go beyond the era of oracle bone inscriptions to understand ancient China. Cultural consciousness is not a slogan, but a holistic, deep and new understanding of Chinese culture.


Fig. 1 during chunqiu period, the culture of Hongshan unearthed in Qin Tomb of Shanxi Province was "Gaoyun shaped Jade", and its image should be solved as a whirlpool eyelike owl spreading airfoil.

Literary Anthropology: The Construction of Chinese Cultural Theory

Literary Anthropology (1986)

Triple Evidence Law (1994)

Quadruple Evidence Law (2005)

Myth of China (2009)

On the Tradition of Culture Size (2010)

Cultural Text Theory and Multilevel Coding Theory (2013)

On the First Unification of Jade Culture in China (2013)

Mythological Conceptual Determinism (2014)

 Examples of Jade Religion Culture

The Fall of the Ming Dynasty: The Myth Code of the Forbidden City

Mythology, as the driving belief of Chinese culture, has never been lost in all dynasties. In 1644, Emperor Chongzhen of the Ming dynasty committed suicide in Jingshan Hill on the eve of Li ZiCheng’s invasion of Beijing. To understand this matter correctly, we must start from the deep ideology  behind it. Concept of myth determines Chinese culture and cultural text is narrative dominated by myth coding.The city of Beijing was built at the foot of yanshan Mountains,which led to the west,namely Taihang Mountain, Yinshan Mountain, Helan Mountain, Qilian Mountain and Kunlun Mountain. The important mountains in northern China are connected by a line. In this sense, as the capital of Ming Dynasty, yanshan is connected with the Kunlun mountains in the northwest. Kunlun Mountain is the sacred mountain that produces jade in Classic of Mountains and Seas. It is also the source of the Yellow River that the ancients thought. It is also the first stop for the Emperor of Heaven to come to the world, so-called “capital under the Emperor”. In the concept of geomantic omen in ancient China, all mountains are connected as a whole, called Dragon veins, Kunlun Mountain is the leader,“the ancestors of all mountains”. Jingshan Hill in Beijing is the"head" of the Kunlun Mountains,which is 4,000 kilometers away built by human hands. As early as the Liangzhu period, the ancients used to build high platforms to express their closeness to heaven and the construction of Jingshan Hill is obviously the continuation of this thinking.There is an immortal myth in the minds of ancient rulers in China. The immortal fairy peach in Journey to the West is the embodiment of this myth. The Queen Mother of the West, who is in charge of the immortal fairy peach, lives in the Jade Pool in Kunlun Mountain.The code of life and death of the rulers of Cathaysia is “the rule of life follows the jade seal and the rule of death belongs to the mountain”.Emperor Chongzhen dedicated himself to Jingshan Hill, in fact, his soul returned to Kunlun jade mountains. A kind of black jade is produced at the foot of Kunlun Mountain, which is called“Xuanyu” in Classic of Mountains and Seas.The Book of Rites contains“ Xia people believe black,Yin people prefer white, Zhou people believe red”. This corresponds to the archaeological discoveries of Dark Jade used in Central Plains before the Xia Dynasty. For thousands of years, the precious jade produced in Xinjiang has influenced the imagination of the Chinese rulers, so the emperors “died and return to the mountains”.

Jingshan  Hill in Beijing is also called “Longevity Hill”. The hills on the north side of the 13th Mausoleum are called “Tianshou Mountain” and the mountains on the south are called “Long Mountain”.The jade ornaments made of sheep fat jade unearthed from the tomb of empress imperial concubines in the Ming Dynasty reflect the myth of immortality.Therefore, it is impossible to understand Chinese culture without understanding myths, which dominates the ideology from the emperor to the people.

The construction of the Forbidden City is also based on the myth of the pioneering world in the Book of Changes.The latter three palaces are Qianqing Palace, Jiaotai Palace and Kunning Palace. Jiaotai Palace, located in the middle,  which represents the transportation between heaven and earth. Jade seals of successive dynasties were placed in Jiaotai Palace, which is called “Jade Seals of the Code of Life”. From the Jade Seal handed down by Qin Shi Huang to today’s ordinary seals are symbols of power.

King Zhou of Shang set himself on fire in Lutai Baoyu entangled in the fire and ascended to the sky

When the Shang Dynasty perished, King zhou of Shang wrapped the jades which were in his palace and set them on fire. Jade represents heaven, God and immortality. On the surface, King Zhou of Shang and Emperor ChongZhen chose different ways of death. In fact, they were all acts dominated by the same belief. The rules of a culture are often reflected in the actions of its rulers. Marx said that the thoughts of rulers are the thoughts of domination. SiMa Qian recorded this detail because it was an embodiment of the ruler’s beliefs.

The King of the Shang Dynasty burned himself in Lutai. The deer, an kind of animal, has a special meaning in China. Because antlers regenerate every year, deer have a recurring, symbolic sense of immortality. At the same time, the deer is also homophonic with “Lu”. The ornaments with the image of deer can protect the officials from rising step by step. From the Jade Rabbit of Shang Dynasty to the Luhe Tongchun Jade Brand of Qing Dynasty, the thought of representing auspicious blessings in Chinese culture has not been interrupted. In Chinese culture, all the things related to jade are accompanied by beautiful things. Jade implies the meaning of god’s blessings.

Interpretation of Big Traditional Prototype

In the eyes of the ancients, only fire could move upward and into the sky.The earliest jade ritual ware in Central Plains was unearthed in the tomb of Xipo, Lingbao, Henan Province, 5300 years ago. The skeleton of the owner of the tomb was laid in the long and narrow tomb, with the head facing west and the feet facing east. The West is the direction of sunset. A dark green serpentine jade indigo was placed on the head of the owner of the tomb. Jade Axe were the highest level of jade rituals before the appearance of the jade seals handed down by Qin Shi Huang. The tomb owner’s feet are pottery centered around the pottery stove. The jade indigo on the head and the yellow pottery stove under the feet reflect the code of Tian Xuan Di Huang. The whole Tomb of M31 is in the shape of a gun chamber, with the jade axe guiding on the upper part, the pottery stove lights the fire on the lower part. The owner of the tomb is in the muzzle of the gun chamber, waiting for the launch to ascend to the sky.


Fig. 2 structural diagram of M31 on the west slope of Lingbao

The god’s emblem on the jade axe and Jade Cong of Liangzhu Culture and the God and man wear a crest. The custom of wearing a crest is widespread around the Pacific Rim and is made of Eagle feathers. Because human beings can not fly to the sky, the feathers of birds have the meaning of God in heaven. He who wears a crown of feathers is both a diviner and a celestial being.Jade ceremonies carved with god’s emblem have become the supreme sacred objects of dialogue and communication between man and god. The god with a crest sits on the tortoise. The trinity of bird, man and beast shows a shamanistic illusion. The guides of Shamanism are often bird men and the gods and men with crests on the emblem of Liangzhu coincide with this image.


Fig. 3 distribution of jade buried with Lingjiatan M23

The Chinese have a long history of turtle worship. From the Jade Turtle unearthed at Lingjiatan site to the tortoise shell divination of Yin Shang Dynasty, to Cao Cao’s verse “tortoise has a longevity, but still has a time”, Lu GuiMeng and “Li GuiNian, the names of people in Tang Dynasty and to the tortoise shell on the stele, are all  the manifestations of tortoise worship. Relative to the short life span of several decades, tortoise can live for thousands of years. The longing for long life has become the ideological source of tortoise worship. Ancientsobject of worship all have their own mythological concepts, so it is very important to find the mythological concepts that dominate them.

The cultural tradition determines the cultural tradition, the cultural text determines the literary text and the unconscious part of the culture determines the conscious part. This is the transcendence of Literary Anthropology - the overall thinking and deep understanding.

Overall and Deep Answer: Why China Becomes China

Zhang Qian and jade stones have made great contributions to China’s vast territory. Zhang Qian made two missions to the Western Regions. On his second trip back to the Western Regions, he picked jade under the hills of Hotan today. In ancient times, the Kunlun Mountains ranged from Qinghai to Xinjiang, which were called Kunlun Mountains. Emperor wudi of the Han Dynasty who got the jade renamed the mountain to the south of Hotan today as Kunlun Mountains.Then he set up Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan and Dunhuang in Hexi. From Dunhuang to the west, Yumenguan is the gateway for Hetian Jade to enter the Central Plains. China's ruling centers are in the mainland, but they are always concerned about the other end of the Hexi Corridor, which is the resource dependence of the Central Plains Dynasty on jade.With Qijia culture around 4000 years ago as the intermediary, Hetian Jade began to enter the Central Plains and since then, Hetian Jade was basically used in the Central Plains dynasty.This is China's resource dependence driven by the belief in jade for thousands of years.

The theories and methods of literary anthropology are now presented in the form of four books: Jade Myth Belief and Chinese Spirit, Research on the Four-fold Evidence Law, New Theory of Literary Anthropology and Historical Exploration of Greek Mythology.

History and Reality of West-to-East Jade Transportation

In ancient times, the rulers of the Mainland paid no price to get Hetian jade. The Jade Material used in the Dayu water control picture jade mountain in Beijing Palace Museum was sent to Beijing by Emperor Qianlong from Hetian, 4,000 kilometers away from Beijing, relay with 300 horses in winter. Emperor Qianlong wrote tens of thousands of poems, of which 800 mentioned jade, which showed his love for jade. Today, the belief in jade is declining because of the economic benefits, the West-to-East transportation of jade is continuing. This is the unique resource dependence of China.

Belief is the grammar that governs behavior. In The Songs of Chu, “Boarding the Kunlun Mountains and tasting the delicacies of Jade Flowers. To live as long as the universe.” is not a literary exaggeration or rhetoric, but a narrative dominated by belief. Those who wrote these words are devout believers of Jade Religion.

 Classic of Mountains and Seas records 400 mountains of which 140 produce jade. This is a narrative of resources accumulated for a long time and controlled by the central authority.In order to find these jade Mountains, we have made 15 routes to the Jade Road, covering seven provinces and 250 counties in the west. Finally, a jade resource area in Western China was delimited. To find the soul of a nation, we need to find something that bears the roots of the nation's beliefs and find out the mystery of the nation. According to the investigation, the jade culture of Central Plains originated from 5500 to 4000 years ago. Because Xuanyu was widely used at that time, it was called Xuanyu Age. This kind of Xuanyu was produced in Tianshui Wushan , Gansu Province and its quality is serpentine. The newly discovered high-quality jade deposits are mainly concentrated in Gansu Province including Mazongshan, Maxianshan, Sanweishan and so on. The quality of the jade is tremolite.The Qijia culture mainly uses MaXian Shan jade, with a small amount of MaZhao Shan and QilianShan jade. There are four parts in ancient China's history of West-to-East Jade Transportation : jade out of Kungang; jade out of Erma Gang (Ma Mao Shan, Ma Lian Shan); jade out of Weihe River source; and jade out of Sanwei Mountain. This is a 5000-year history of East-West exchanges. Majiayao culture's colored pottery technology probably originated from the Jade Pickers who went west of Miaodigou culture.

Jade Culture in Unifying China:  Unify the Yangtze River Delta Firstly, then Unify China

There are six instruments in Rites of the Zhou Dynasty. There are six instruments in the yangtze River Delta over 5000 years. They are Cong, Bi, huang, Yue, Taper and Crown. At least three of the six kinds of jade rituals in Rites of the Zhou Dynasty are contributed to the Central Plains by Liangzhu Culture, namely huang, Cong and Bi. There are two main routes for the spread of jades in the yangtze River Delta: one is from the lower reaches of the yangtze River to the middle reaches of the yangtze River, the other is from the yangtze River Delta to the north to the Huaihe River region and then along the Yellow River through Dawenkou culture to the Central Plains.

Liangzhu can be called the kingdom of jade rituals. The most important jade rituals are Cong and Bi. With regard to Jade Cong, Mr.Zhang guangzhi' s explanation of its meaning with the theory of Shamanism is most effective (Zhang guangzhi's Talking about Cong” and Its Significance in Chinese Ancient History). Unlike the Jade Cong which was no longer used after the Zhou Dynasty, the Jade Bi has been used for a long time. The earliest yuanqian was to imitate the shape of Jade Bi. The bronze plates and stone portraits of the Han Dynasty also have images of Jade Bi, indicating the gate  to heaven.

Jade Ritual Articles Are Reversed the Plight by Innovation and Exploration: Criticism of Six Articles Theory in Rites of the Zhou Dynasty

The combination of jade and ritual ware can help us to judge the authenticity or age of ancient books. From Majiabang culture to Rites of the Zhou Dynasty, the combination of jade rituals is as follows:

  1.   Majiabang Hemudu three wares: tomeahawk, huang and jue
  2.   Six instruments of songze culture: tomeahawk, huang, jue, bracelets, dragon and han
  3.   Six instruments of Liangzhu Culture: huang, bi, huang, cong,cone and crown
  4.   Six instruments of Longshan or Xia Rites: tomeahawk, huang, bi, zhang, dao and xuanji
  5.    Six  instruments of Shang Rites:tomahawk, huang, bi, cong, ge and handle shape
  6.   Six Instruments of  Rites of the Zhou Dynasty said: gui, huang, bi, cong, zhang and hu.

According to archaeological findings, none of the tombs of the Zhou Dynasty unearthed the six artifacts of the Rites of the Zhou Dynasty at the same time. The combination of the six artifacts in line with the Rites of the Zhou Dynasty was first found in the tombs of the Han Dynasty, while the most common jade artifacts unearthed in the tombs of the Zhou Dynasty were the jade handles and the jade fish(the ancients believed that after death, people would go to netherworld. Jade fish of Zhou Dynasty and Jade Hazel of Han Dynasty reflected this mythological concept. Jade clothes are artificial scales) Thus it can be seen that the description of jade rituals in the Rites of the Zhou Dynasty should be done by the people of Han Dynasty. This is an example of the quadruple evidence method in judging the truth and falsity of classics.

International Great History School and The Great Traditional View of History in China

The representative works of the international great historic school are The Great History: Between Nothingness and All Things, A Brief History of Mankind: From Animals to God. It examines not only the history of human beings, but also the history of the earth and even the history of the universe. It has both a grand vision and a long-term perspective. The representative of the great traditional historical view in China is Cultural Semiotics - New Vision of Size and Size Tradition. Mo yan's novel Frog, the God of the frog on the painted pottery pot of Majiayao has a great tradition of frog worship. Because of its high fertility, frogs are worshiped as the God of fertility, symbolizing regeneration and resurrection.

After the lecture, the students gave warm applause to Professor Ye ShuXian. Associate professor Xu Feng told the students that the research should be consistent to form their own system, so that the research will have a strong vitality. He also encouraged students to embrace different disciplines so that they can go far on their path of learning. Professor Tang HuiSheng emphasized that archaeology should be able to see people through objects. When doing academic work, we should not only attach importance to “instrument”, but also to “Tao”.


Fig. 4 Lecture scene

In the question session, how to deal with the archeological community for students,the use of materials bias of the interdisciplinary research method of ethnology,  Professor Ye ShuXian cited Malinovsky's shift from Doctor of Physics to anthropology and the example of studying stone tools by the method of Ethnology Torii Ryuzo in Tibet as examples to illustrate that knowledge has no boundaries and there should be no gateway to academic research. He also said that ethnological materials were the third evidence of archaeological research.  In response to another student's doubts about the petiole, Professor Ye ShuXian interpreted the archaeological materials as the ancestral position of the petiole. Jade rituals of different shapes represent different mythological concepts, such as Jade huang, which represents the belief of ascending to heaven through Rainbow Bridge. Through folk beliefs, cultural relics can be activated as well as text narrative. The important archetypes and important cultural genes in Chinese culture all come from the great cultural tradition. Archaeology and cultural exposition specialty has a long research period, which is the advantage of studying the great cultural tradition.



                                                                       By Linyan Gao