On a cool Sunday evening in March, a geochemist named Sun Weidong gave a public lecture to an audience of nonprofessionals, students and teachers at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, the land-locked province’s capital, in Anhui province in eastern China. But the professor simply did not talk about geochemistry. He also cited several ancient Chinese classics, in one passage quoting the historian Sima Qian description of the topography of the Xia Empire, traditionally considered the dynasty of the founders of China, dating from 2070 to 1600 BC. To the north the stream is divided and becomes nine rivers, writes Sima Qian in his first-century historiography, “Records of the Great Historian.” Reunited, it forms the opposite river and flows into the sea.
In other words, the stream in question was not glorified by the Chinese Yellow River, which flows from west to east. In the world there is only one large river that flows to the north. Which of them? Asked the professor. Neil, someone answered. Then the Sun showed a map of the famous Egyptian river and its delta with its nine distributors flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. This author, a researcher at the same institute, watched spectators burst out with smiles and murmurs, intrigued by the fact that these ancient Chinese texts are better aligned with the geography of Egypt than with China.
Last year, Sun, a highly regarded scientist, sparked a passionate online debate with allegations that the founders of Chinese civilization were not in any sense Chinese, but in fact migrants from Egypt. He conceived this connection in the 1990s, performing radiometric dating of ancient Chinese bronzes; To his surprise, their chemical composition was more reminiscent of those of ancient Egyptian bronzes than native Chinese ores. Both the ideas of the Sun and the controversy surrounding them stem from a much longer tradition of nationalist archeology in China, which has been trying for more than a century to answer the basic scientific question, which has always been largely politicized: Where do the Chinese come from?
The sun claims that the technology Chinas Bronze Age, widely known scientist, first appeared in the northwest of the country through the prehistoric Silk Road, in fact came to the sea. According to him, his carriers were Hyksos, residents of Western Asia, who ruled part of northern Egypt as foreigners between the 16th and 16th centuries BC. He notes that the Hyksos had in their time almost all the same wonderful technologies of bronze metallurgy, chariots, literacy, domesticated plants and animals that archaeologists discovered in the ancient city of Yin, the capital of the second Chinese Shang dynasty, between 1300 and 1046 BC. E. Since the Hyksos are known to have developed ships for war and trade that allowed them to swim across the Red and Mediterranean seas, the Sun suggests that a small population escaped their crumbling dynasty, using the technology of navigation that eventually led them and their Bronze Age culture To the coast of China.
Pit of oracle bones in Anyang, China. Photo credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons.
The thesis about the Sun was controversial when the Chinese travel website Kooniao first published it on the Internet in the form of an essay for 93,000 characters in September 2015. As the liberal magazine Caixin commented, his courageous name and simple language attracted the interest of more than a few readers. This title was “Explosive archaeological discovery: the ancestors of the Chinese people came from Egypt”, and the essay was reproduced and discussed on the Internet on such Internet portals as Sohu and popular message boards such as “Zhihu” and “Tiexue”. Kooniao also created a widely readable page dedicated to this issue on the microblogging platform Weibo hashtagged Chinese People Come from Egypt, which contains a useful sample of responses from the public. Some of them simply express outrage, often to such an extent of inconsistency: that experts of the absurd theory accidentally accept someone as their ancestors, frightening. This is a complex of deep inferiority of people at work! Another asked: “How will the children of the Yellow Emperor move to Egypt? This topic is very pathetic. The main thing is to live at the moment!
Other commentators were more thoughtful. If they are not completely convinced, they are at least ready to accept the Suns ideas. In fact, a rough amount of comments from intellectually curious ones outnumber the purely reactionary ones from about 3 to 2. As one user wrote, I approve. It is reasonable to look at this theory. Whether this is true or false is worth exploring. Another wrote: “The world is such a great place that it reveals a lot of strange things. One cant say it’s impossible. Another wrote: “You can not just reject it as wrong or curse evidence as false. Exchange between cultures can be very deep and distant.
Anticipating his critics, Song wrote online that, in order to explore anew, the origins of Chinese civilization may seem ridiculous in the eyes of some, because historians have long stated clearly: we are the children of Jan and the Yellow Emperor. The historian Sima Qian used these legendary figures as the ancestor of the Han; And the great-grandson of the Yellow Emperors, Yu. The Great, as the founder of the semi-dynasty Xia. They served as sources of origins for imperial China and continued to accrue for decades after the republic replaced it in 1912, so that even the nations of the majority of iconoclastic and rebellious sons Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek and the founder of the People’s Republic of Mao Zedong. Among them For a moment they felt the need to express their respects in the tomb of the Yellow Emperors. Even now, the often repeated assertion that the Chinese civilization is about 5000 years old is the starting point for the alleged rule of this legendary emperor.
Intelligentsia against Qing began to critically examine the roots of Chinese civilization and first seized the idea that they are in the West.
Unbeknownst to many, the agitator of the anti-Qing dynasty was the first to publish (under a pseudonym) this claim regarding the antiquity of the peoples in 1903. On the idea of his nationalistic ideology, if we want to preserve the survival of the Han nation, it is necessary that we worship the Yellow Emperor. At that time, the Qing Dynasty was in serious decline, its apparent backwardness compared to the Western powers was the reason for a great search for the soul. Intelligentsia against Qing began to critically examine the roots of Chinese civilization and first seized the idea that they are in the West. The work that most reflected their imagination was the French philologist Albert Terrien de Lacuper, who in 1892 published the western origin of the early Chinese civilization from 2300 BC. Up to 200 A.D. Translated into Chinese in 1903, he compared the hexagrams of the Book of Changes with the cuneiform of Mesopotamia and suggested that the Chinese civilization originate in Babylon. The yellow emperor was identified with King Nahunt, who supposedly led his people from the Middle East and into the Central Plain of the Yellow River valley around 2300 BC.
Sun Yat-Sen in Guangzhou, in 1924. Photo: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons.
Liu Shipi, a professor of history at Peking University and a true author behind the pseudonymous chronology of the Yellow Emperor, was one of the first to promote Sino-Babylonism in books such as his story of the Chinese nation of 1903. By 1915 the theory was widespread enough that the national anthem of the republic, at the request of President Yuan Shikai, touched it obliquely, calling China a famous descendant from the Kunlun peak, which Chinese mythology is in the far, far west. Another approval was received from the founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-Sen, who stated in his lectures “The Three Principles of the People” in 1924 that the growth of Chinese civilization can be explained by the fact that the migrants who migrated from another place to this valley Had a very high civilization.
It was hoped that since China shared the same genealogy as other great civilizations, there was no definitive reason why it should not catch up with more advanced nations in Europe and America.
For these and other revolutionaries, the Sino-Babylonian approach was not only the last European scientific opinion. It was hoped that since China shared the same genealogy as other great civilizations, there was no definitive reason why it should not catch up with more advanced nations in Europe and America.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Sino-Babylonian regime fell out of use when the Japanese aggression escalated, and another policy of nationalism became stronger. Chinese historians, in an attempt to distance China from the imperialist powers, criticized the views of Western origin and their earlier supporters. At about the same time, modern scientific archeology made its debut in China. The discovery of Neolithic pottery in Longshan, Shandong, in 1928 showed that eastern China was inhabited by indigenous groups before the migration of the Bronze Age, proposed by Lakuperi, was established. In the same year, excavations of the city of Yin began. Because of the superiority of the material culture of Yin-Shans, its famous oracle bones, for example, whose letter is the ancestor of the modern Chinese script used today, that the state is often considered the root of a Chinese civilization located within the borders of China, in the Present Anyang, Henan.
In the end, theories of Western origin were replaced by what sounds like a compromise: the theory of Chinese civilization of double origin. The view suggested that the eastern Neolithic culture moving to the West met a Western Neolithic culture moving eastward, merging to form the progenitors of Shan. It lasted until the 1950s.
But Chinese archeology has radically changed toward more extreme nationalism after the founding of the 1949 Chinese People’s Republic, when, according to historian James Leibold, the Chinese scientific community has ceased to exist. Nationalism and authoritarianism required the interpretation of archaeological evidence as evidence that the Chinese civilization originated from the outset, without external influences. As the archaeologist from the University of Sichuan wrote and the possible dissident Tong Enjeng in his fascinating news of the politicization of scholarships between 1949 and 1979: Mao Zedong implemented a comprehensive anti-Western policy after 1949 that expanded the already existing anti-imperialism, eventually turning into total anti-Judaism, Inevitably, Chinese archeology was affected.
Maoism also demanded the conviction that the Chinese civilization developed in accordance with the objective historical laws of Marxism, from a primitive group to a socialist society. The archaeologists of the Mao-era thus sought to use their findings to prove these laws by legitimizing the status quo. As the Institute of Archeology of Xia Nye himself wrote, in 1972 we archeologists should follow the leadership of Marxism, Leninism and thought of Mao Zedong, faithfully fulfilling the great guiding principle of Chairman Mao, in order to make the Past serve the present. Not surprisingly, during the Cultural Revolution, meetings were held under such absurd headlines as the use of antiquities stored in the Confucius Temple in Qufu County, for criticizing Lin Biao and Confucius. Meanwhile, revolutionary slogans fell into scientific publications along with data.
On the left: Oracle shell with the inscriptions. Photo: Chabot Space and Science Center / Wikimedia Commons. Right: yellow emperor. Photo credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons.
Blatant ideological bias has gone from scientific efforts in the era of reform after 1978, but the ultimate goal of Chinese archeology for the history of countries remained. The most famous example from this era is the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronological Project, directly inspired by the achievements of Egyptian archeology. State counselor Song Jian traveled to Egypt in 1995 and was particularly impressed with the genealogy of the pharaohs, which returned to the third millennium BC. This prompted him to launch a campaign for the project included in the Ninth Five-Year Plan, which gave the Chinese dynasties comparable results. Thanks to the mobilization of more than 200 experts on the budget in the amount of about 1.5 million dollars. USA for five years, the Chronological Project was considered the largest state project in the humanities since 1773, when Emperor Qianlong ordered Siku-changhu, an encyclopedia about 20 times larger than the Britannica.
Some interviewed the motives of the Chronological projects. One of the most famous detractors was the historian of the University of Chicago Edward L. Shaunessy, who complained, Theres a chauvinistic desire to push the historical record into the third millennium BC, placing China on a par with Egypt. This is more a political and nationalistic aspiration than a scientific one. Others criticized the methods and results of the projects. Stanford archaeologist Li Liu, for example, did not agree with the fact that he considered Xia historical and fixed dates for him, when there is still no convincing archaeological evidence of his existence.
But the project also had advocates, including Harvard anthropologist Yuen Kuen Li, who pointed out that the internal relationship between the study of the past and nationalism does not necessarily imply that the study of the past is corrupt in nature. The usefulness of archeology in strengthening the pride and legitimacy of nations, explaining and, in part, justifying its language, culture and territorial claims, means that most archaeological traditions have a nationalistic impulse. Thus, in Israel archeology focuses on the period of the Old Testament; In Scandinavian countries, he focuses on the Vikings. An important question that we should ask, continued Yun, is that the scientists of the project were able to maintain scientific rigor.
In a sense, the modern theory of the Sun is an unintended result of the scientific rigor of the Chronological projects.
In a sense, the modern theory of the Sun is an unintended result of the scientific rigor of the Chronological projects. At the start of projects in 1996 he was a candidate of science. A student in the radiation laboratory of the University of Science and Technology. Of 200 or so bronze objects, he was responsible for the analysis, some came from the city of Yin. He found that the radioactivity of these bronze items of Yin-Shan has almost the same characteristics as the ancient Egyptian bronzes, which indicates that their ores were obtained from the same source: African mines.
Perhaps, expecting serious disagreements, Suns’ scientific supervisor did not allow Sun to report its findings at that time. Sun was asked to transfer his data and switched to another project. Twenty years after the start of his research, and now he himself is a professor, Sun is finally ready to say all that he knows about the culture of Yin-Shan and the Chinese Bronze Age.
Although the public basically got the theory of the Sun with an open mind, it still lies outside the academic mainstream. Since the 1990s, most Chinese archaeologists have recognized that most of the technology of the Bronze Age nations came from regions outside of China. But it is not considered that he arrived directly from the Middle East during the epic migration. A more prosaic consensus is that it was transferred to China from Central Asia by a slow process of cultural exchange (trade, tribute, dowry) across the northern border mediated by Eurasian steppe cattle breeders who had contacts with indigenous groups in both regions.
Despite this, the hobby of ancient Egypt is unlikely to end soon. As the Chronology of Xia-Shang-Zhou has shown, this feeling has deep, politically colored roots. They were again demonstrated during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Egypt in January to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Upon arrival, Si met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with an Egyptian proverb: “As soon as you drink from the Nile, you are destined to return. They celebrated the antiquity of their two civilizations by visiting the temple in Luxor together.
It remains to be seen whether Sans’s evidence will be included in the main policy to prove the long-standing Sino-Egyptian cultural relations. But if this is so, then the proverb Xi, pronounced after he set foot in Egypt, will be strangely prophetic.