China museum
Banpo Museum in Xi'an









Banpo Museum in Xi'an

Banpo Museum in Xi'an.
The exterior of the Banpo Museum in Xi'an.

The Banpo Museum is located in a modern building some three miles to the east of Xi'an City in Shaanxi Province. It is near the bridge that crosses the river, long renowned as one of the famous eight rivers of Chang'an. The Museum was built in 1958 and is the first museum built for a 'mankind site,' a habitation site of early man. Its name comes from its location on the northern side of Banpo Village. The site marks a settlement that dates to the matrilineal clan commune period of the Neolithic period. Before its discovery in the twentieth century, it had been lying in wait for some 6,000 years.

A bottle with sharppointed bottom
A bottle with sharppointed bottom unearthed in Banpo

The arrangement of the Neolithic village was quite organized. At the center of the settlement was a 160-square meter-large room that was surrounded by many smaller rooms. All of the doors of these faced the inside larger room, reflecting the clan spirit of a cohesive group. Around the village was a 300-meter long trench or ditch that was used to keep wild animals from attacking. To the east was a ceramic-making area and to the north was the cemetery district. Inside the town were some 46 houses. Some were square, some round, some half-submerged in the ground, some on the surface. These houses already used traditional Chinese wall-construction methods and can be called precursors of later Chinese architecture that used wood and earth.

In a reconstruction of a Banpo room are exhibited production tools and daily utensils that were used by Banpo people. On the walls are hung animal skins and pointed-bottom vessels for getting water. A mat is spread beside the hearth on the floor - the scene of ancient man's life is suddenly spread before our eyes: members of the clan, under the direction of the old grandmother, are just in the process of making a fire. Or outside, hunters are taking aim and firing their arrows or are vigorously throwing out flying balls, pursuing a frightened spotted deer. By the river, fishermen are in the process of catching fish, in the virgin forests, women and children, holding bone spades, are gathering wild fruits. As the sun goes down in the west, the village, sparkling with kitchen fires, shows women roasting meat, using stone grinders to grind meal, using bone needles to sew hemp-fabric clothes. Artists are focusing on painting or impressing patterns into ceramic vessels; old grandmothers are carefully distributing the cooked food to the others: some people are putting gathered vegetables and grains into vessels for storage.

A basin of human face and fish pattern Part of the Banpo Residence Site.
A basin of human face and fish pattern unearthed in Banpo.
Part of the Banpo Residence Site.

In the northern part of the Banpo Village is the cemetery district where adults were buried. Some 174 graves have been discovered, lined up in regular order, but exhibiting different burial customs. Banpo people mostly died around the age of 30. On the eastern side of the town is the Public Kiln for firing pottery. Six kilns have been found to date. At the beginning, the pottery making was carried out in the open. By the time of Banpo, people had invented two main types of horizontal and upright kilns. Banpo ceramic production used both fine-grained clay and sandy coarse clay; the fine-grained was of three types depending on its use. Banpo people used realistic methods of painting to decorate their ceramics, with sketched designs to exhibit the characteristics of various animals.

Around twelve different kinds of markings or symbols have been found on pottery fragments or on vessels at the site. Together they comprise the main types of strokes used in Chinese characters, such as upright, cross-wise, hooked, and so on. Writing did not exist at the time, but these marks or symbols almost certainly contained their own meanings for people at the time. A number of daily articles are also exhibited in the museum, such as stone axes, finely made fishhooks, fish?bone forks, sharp bone needles, and all kinds of ornamentation made of stone, bone, and ivory.

Address: Shaanxi Province, Xi'an City,Banpo Road, #1
Telephone: 86-29-83512375
Fax: 86-29-83524707

More Museums in Shananxi Province

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