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The search for archaeological evidence of the Chinese past began early in this century and made remarkable strides with the discovery of the Peking Man and Neolithic habitations (a stage of history which Chinese scholars as late as 1912 claimed their ancestors had skipped). The Chinese passion for archaeology has continued even through the height of the cultural revolution and here Hay retraces for the layman the history and import of major finds. Arranged chronologically, the chapters move from the deciphering of the ""dragon bone"" oracles of the early Shang dynasty, the excavation of a Bronze Age city and the unraveling of the riddle of the Great Wall to Han Dynasty spiritualism, the arrival of Buddhism and the splendor of the Tang's imperial tombs. In contrast to most American popularizers, Hay places less emphasis on the drama of discovery and more on description of the artifacts themselves and on the close following of scholarly arguments. The resulting narrative is difficult by our standards, but well worth the effort it takes for its intensive insights into the dynastic cultures, appreciation of antiquities for their aesthetic qualities and -- not incidentally, for what it reveals about the methodology of archaeologists and paleontologists.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1974
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Walck