China's earliest palace discovered in 5,300-year-old ancient capital

ZHENGZHOU (XINHUA) - China has uncovered its hitherto earliest palace in central China's Henan province, extending China's history of constructing palaces by about 1,000 years.

The ancient palace was found at the Shuanghuaishu site, which is believed to provide another key proof of the origin of the over 5,000-year-long Chinese civilisation, according to Mr Wang Wei, president of the Chinese Society of Archaeology.

The ruins were built on a rammed earth high platform which covers around 4,300 sq m and is laden with foundations for structures.

The excavation work has unveiled the clear layouts of the two compounds among the structures built upon the platform.

At the Western half of the platform lies a courtyard in a rectangle shape, outside the south walls of which a nearly 880-square-metre grand square was unearthed. The discovery suggests a typical ancient palace layout, where the administrative area for the royal court sat in front of the residences.

The other courtyard situated on the eastern half of the site covers around 1,500 square metres, with three stately gateways, according to Mr Gu Wanfa, director of the Zhengzhou Municipal Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

"The spatial arrangement of such large courtyards and the palace city placing the administrative area in front of the royal family's living area created a precedent for the palace system in China," said He Nu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, adding that the layouts directly affected the capital city planning in the following dynasties including the Xia and Shang.

Previously, archaeologists excavated the country's earliest ancient palace at the Erlitou relics site, which served as the capital city for the middle and late periods of the Xia Dynasty (around 2070 BC-1600 BC), China's earliest known dynasty. The latest discovery is expected to bring the establishment of China's palace system to an earlier date.

With an area of 1.17 million sq metres, the Shuanghuaishu site is located on the south bank of the Yellow River in the township of Heluo, the city of Gongyi, Henan. It was the capital city of an ancient "Heluo Kingdom" dating back around 5,300 years, testifying to the origin of the Chinese civilisation.

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