Culture of Qijia

The culture of Qijia (2200-1600) is the first culture of the late Neolithic that makes, in China, the transition with the Bronze Age. It can therefore be considered a culture of the Bronze Age. It is located mainly in Gansu, east of Qinghai and south of Ningxia. Johan Gunnar Andersson discovered the first site in Qijiaping (齊 家坪) in 1923, as he searched west for the origins of Yangshao culture. Chronologically and culturally it follows and inherits the culture of Majiayao, a culture that includes copper and bronze objects, the oldest in China’s present territories.

Qijia culture is located in northwestern China, mainly in the upper valley of the Yellow River: in eastern Gansu, near Lanzhou City, but also in the Hexi (Qijiaping) corridor, in eastern China. Qinghai and southern Ningxia, on the southern margins of Tengger, with a hot and dry climate that favors agriculture at an increasingly higher altitude. It is loess land, watered by the tributaries of the upper Yellow River, bounded to the north by the Tenggeli Desert (or Tengger) and by the Qilian Mountains to the South. The most important sites are located in Gansu. Specifically, the Sizuiping site is located on the Qin’an xian, Huangniang Niangtai in Wuwei, Dahezhuang on the Yongjing xian, and Shizhaocun in Tianshui. The archaeological sites of Lajia on the autonomous xian hui and you of Minhe, Qijiaping on the xian of Guanghe, Liuwan on the xian of Ledu and Qinweijia on the xian of Yongjing are also notable sites of the culture Qijia. The four most searched sites in 1996 were Dahezhuang, Huangniang Niantai, Liuwan and Qinweijia.

It inherits the long history of successive Neolithic cultures in this territory: the cultures of Majiayao (3800-1900 BCE) and in particular the Machang phase of Majiayao (2500-1800) as well as the cultures of Longshan of Henan: Keshengzhuang II (“Longshan Culture” in Shaanxi) and the lower Changshan culture, Zhenyuan xian (Gansu), which were contemporary to it. But the origin of Qijia’s culture is still under discussion. The climatic events that occurred during this period were the subject of a recent scientific publication (2005): two long wet periods (2900-2700 and 2700-1940) favored the establishment of the Majiayao culture in eastern Qinghai and Qijia culture in the middle valley of the Huangshui River (which passes Xining), Haiyan Xian (Qinghai). That said, this wet episode would have been followed by a long dry period, favorable to the cultivation of cereals such as millet. It is therefore a sedentary economy, based on agriculture: millet (Far East), wheat and barley (from Central Asia) and a highly developed pig and sheep rearing in the first place, but also oxen, horses and dogs. It seems that agropastoralism has been poorly developed. We also hunt deer. Pigs and sheep / goats, cattle in general, and some horses are also used as offerings in the graves.

The diversity of the cereals, the large number of horses as well as the knives and the axes of bronze testify of relations with the cultures of Siberia and Eurasia. Archaeological evidence confirms the first contacts between the Qijia and Eurasia cultures: the Andronovo culture. More than one hundred copper and bronze objects have been found on at least ten Qijia sites, marking a clear contrast to previous cultures. In the first period of this culture they are mainly brass, but we already find various alloys: the tin lowers the melting point and gives its strength to the alloy. These metals are used to make small utility objects such as knives and punches, spear points, axes. They are also used to make objects related to finery, quality ornaments such as bronze mirrors decorated with star shapes on the face of the hanging ring, earrings and gold rings, small ornaments in bronze plates encrusted with fine stones, like turquoise, worked in a form similar to that found at Erlitou, during the middle Qijia period. This culture thus bears in these objects, their technologies and their forms, the trace of interactions with distant populations. In particular the bronze metallurgy as used in the cultures of the Eurasian steppes: the handles of the knives are constituted, at their base, of a ring typical of these cultures of Eurasia, not to say of Central Asia, in fact these are mainly populations from what will become Kazakhstan, especially the Andronovo family and the Seima-Turbino populations. As for the decoration of the star-shaped mirrors, it is of a type similar to those of Tianshanbeilu, in Eastern Xinjiang. Next to this majority of witnesses of contacts with the populations of the West there is also the plates decorated, typical of Erlitou (Henan of the West), the use of jade cong although made on the spot with the local jade, or when a bi disc, but of polished stone, is placed towards the head of the deceased in a tomb like in Laoniupo, near Xi’an, testify of exchanges with the cultures of the East of what is become China: here ” ‘it is the prestige objects as symbols of status that come from the cultural traditions of the East’ ”. The culture of Qijia seems to have served as a gateway for these technologies and their use, coming from Mongolia from Central Asia, in characteristic objects as far as Xinjiang, since there are many indications on the site of Tianshanbeilu, in Eastern Xinjiang. Microliths, arrowheads and scrapers have been found at many sites, particularly in the Hexi Corridor near Wuwei, evidence of hunter-gatherer practices such as their neighbors in Siba.

The culture of Qijia produces a ceramics made with art. Ceramics are either unadorned or ornamented, often with string or wicker prints, but some are distinguished by their painted decor of clean geometric figures. The potters turn large jars (guan) to two, sometimes three handles and wide opening or with a high neck, almost all with a flat base, as well as foot (dou) or tripod (li). A pottery type he, from the culture of Qijia, and 27 cm high. is seen from the angle of its particularity to be covered with a pierced dome. And this peculiarity seems to make a copy of a hammered bronze vase, so made in a context where bronze is rare, and the fact that no copy of this type was found would come from the fact of this method of hammering a thin bronze plate and its rarity. The bronze could have been worked by hammering to make vases, while this practice will not be repeated later in a context, in central China, where bronze has been used in abundance.

Oracular divination, scapulomancy, is practiced here, as in all of Northern China at that time. On the other hand, the killing of wives seems to have been a practice specific to this culture, but a practice imported from a branch of the populations of Seima-Turbino of the East, the steppes of Eurasia in the Ob Valley. .

Most Qijia settlements are located on terraces facing a river, with mountains in the background. The main sites in Gansu are Sizuiping (Qin’an xian), Huangniang Niangtai (Wuwei), Dahezhuang (Yongjing) and Shizhaocun (Tianshui). These are small sites, Dahezhuang is only 5.3 hectares. The excavations, old, not having been preserved and the publications being imprecise, the search meets serious difficulties. Some houses, often facing south and more or less rectangular, are half buried, with a living space and dug in the ground sometimes located below which is accessed by a ramp. The living space is covered with a mortar of lime mixed with straw and branches will be reduced all the better the moisture from the ground that this deep rectangular space is surrounded by a wide bench to the walls . At the four corners of the living space, placed on the mortar lime and wedged against the bench, four posts support the cover that is supposed to overflow and thus protect the walls. The poles may well take less moisture. These dwellings have only one room, reduced in size (approx.) With a more or less central focus. On the other hand, in the Qijia villages we found many circles of stones, of. about a diameter, with a void in the circle that is reminiscent of an “entry”, if it is indeed a dwelling and not a place of worship in the open air. Their regular arrangement between the rectangular dwellings seems to indicate the former location of circular tents proper to the nomads, the stones serving as their anchorage. The whole village has storage pits distributed between houses.

File: Jade cong, Culture Qijia, 2100-1700 BC.jpg | Tube jade cong. Qijia. Provincial Museum of Gansu, Lanzhou File: Painted pottery jar, Culture Qijia, 2100-1700 BC.jpg Painted jar of type guan. Qijia. Provincial Museum of Gansu, Lanzhou File: Red earthenweare jar. Qijia. Museum für Asiatische Kunst.Berlin.jpg | Jar, terracotta red, H. 12 cm approx. Gansu or Qinghai. Qijia. 1500-1000. Berlin Asian Art Museum File: Pottery bird-shaped vessel, Qijia Culture, 2100-1700 BC.jpg | Chicken-shaped vase (?). Qijia. Provincial Museum of Gansu, Lanzhou File: Jar on two human feet. Qijia.JPG | Small jar with two feet of man. Terracotta, H 13 cm approx. Qijia (?). Gansu or Qinghai, 2nd mill AEC. Rietberg Museum, Zürich, File: Jar with human figure. Qijia culture.JPG | Small jar to the clinging man. Terracotta, H 13 cm approx. Qijia. Gansu or Qinghai, 2nd mill AEC. Rietberg Museum, Zürich File: Bronze Axis & Copper Knife, Qijia Culture, Gansu.jpg | Ax and bronze knife. Culture of Qijia, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing File: Gold earrings, Qijia Culture, Gansu.jpg | Gold earrings. Culture of Qijia, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing File: Gold earing, Siba culture, Gansu.JPG | Gold earring. Culture of Siba, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing File: Pottery jar inlaid with turquoise, Siba Culture, Gansu.JPG | Small terracotta jar encrusted with turquoise. Siba, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing File: Painted pottery jar in shape of human, Siba Culture, Gansu.JPG Painted anthropomorphic pottery. Siba, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing File: Bronze mace head with 4 sheep, Siba Culture, 1900-1400 BC.JPG | Mace decorated with four rams’ heads. Siba. Provincial Museum of Gansu

In recent times when Qijia culture existed it has moved and its population has shrunk. But it left traces in other cultures until our era. At a time that roughly corresponds to that of the Shang, in the cultures of Huoshaogou, Qiayao, Nuomuhong, Xindian and Siwa. The tombs, already very rare at the time Qijia, which bore indications of a more hierarchical society with tombs of couples, remain very isolated then. While the cultures of the central plain multiply animal and human sacrifices in highly hierarchical societies, these practices are very rare here. The use of bronze remains limited to small tools and ornaments, unlike what happens in the central plain, with the Shang. Incineration, on the other hand, appears in the Siwa culture in Gansu, and more isolated in Qiaoyao culture in Qinghai; the ashes being kept in jars. There is also a change of lifestyle, more so in Qinghai than in Gansu, Huoshaogou, as well as on the Xindian and Qiayao sites, as on the sites of the Siwa culture. The gradual decrease in the size of the tombs and the average number of pieces of ceramics per grave, the increasing importance of pastoralism, the first place returning to the monton and no longer to pork, all this suggests a transition, during this period. time, whogoes from agriculture to agropastoralism, in a way opposed to the future Chinese sedentary empire: that of nomadic pastoral societies connected to the nomadic world and having its own network of relations and contacts, different from that of the Shang. People who were going to play in the first millennium, with the contribution of their traditions, a fundamental role on the borders of China.

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