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7,400-year-old jar gives clue to phoenix-worshipping history

Updated: 05 07 , 2013 19:39
A 7,400-year-old pottery jar stamped with the design of two flying phoenixes has been excavated recently in Central China's Hunan Province , helping archaeologists unveil the secret of the "birth" of the sacred bird.
The two phoenixes have the typical characteristics of the legendary phoenix, which has a crest on its head, a long beak, a long neck and a long beautiful feathered tail.
The phoenix and the dragon are the most worshipped legendary creatures in China since ancient times.
The discovery showed that ancient Chinese myths relating to phoenixes dated back at least 7,400 years, said He Gang, head of the Hunan provincial archaeological research institute.
He headed the excavations at the Gaomiao Culture Ruins, covering 15,000 square meters, a Neolithic age site near Yanli Village of Chatou Township, Hongjiang City, unearthing a large number of relic items that relate to religious rituals in Yanli Village.
"I couldn't believe that the jar was made by ancients 7,400 years ago if I hadn't taken it myself," said He. "It's proof that there were special artisans, artists, at that time."
"The designs of the phoenix on the jar are far more delicate than of two similar birds on an ivory dish, unearthed several years ago from a site of the Hemudu Culture, dating back 4,000 to 7,000 years ago, in Yuyao County, East China's Zhejiang Province ."
The phoenix is an imaginary bird, a creature resulting from primitives' piety, adoration and worship of gods, He said.
Chinese people have endowed the phoenix with many fine characteristics: beautiful, auspicious, kind, peaceful, and boasting lofty natural virtues. "Although the phoenix doesn't live in reality, it's in the heart of the Chinese people," He said.
"However, the phoenix was not created out of pure imagination," said He. "Phoenix designs unearthed from the Gaomiao Culture ruins show that the original shape owed a lot to the peacock."
Discovery of the phoenix designs also provided important evidence that prove the Yangtze River valley was a major cradle of Chinese civilization, He said.
Moreover, discoveries of religious and sacrificial items at the site provide material for studying the religious awareness, belief and art of the prehistoric people, he said.
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