The Yangshao culture (Chinese: 仰韶文化; pinyin: Yǎngsháo wénhuà) was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the central Yellow River in China. The Yangshao culture is dated from around 5000 BC to 3000 BC. The culture is named after Yangshao, the first excavated representative village of this culture, which was discovered in 1921 in Henan Province. The culture flourished mainly in the provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi.
Yangshao Culture, named after the Yangshao Village in Mianchi, Henan Province, was first discovered in 1921 by Andersson JohanGunnar, a Sweden scholar. The Yangshao Culture covers a wide geographic area and has a history which can be dated back to 7000 to 5000 years ago. The ancestors of the culture created it when they were in as early as the matriclan age, with settled villages and set graveyard, managing their primitive farming with the hoe and raising livestock such as pigs and dogs. Moreover, picking, fishing and hunting activities were also an important part of their lives, together with handicraft industries including pottery making, straw knitting, weaving and bone prodding, etc. Their artworks were the implicit signs of their life, production and religious activities at that time.
Identical cultural characteristics are reflected in nearly 100 cultural sites and relics that have been excavated so far. Polished stone implements are the major production tools, characterized by knife, axe, chisel, arrowhead and stone spindle whorl used for weaving. The bone tools are delicate too. The Yangshao clan also engaged themselves in hunting, fishing and collection; they had advanced agriculture and raised pigs and dogs as their main livestock. Their ceramics thrived too, which can be proved by all sorts of daily potteries unearthed, usually made of red fine clay, including tripod caldrons, bowls, cups, pots, jars and urns. The red potteries were usually drawn with colored geometric or animal patterns, which is the most distinct feature of the Yangshao Culture. That's why it is also called the "Painted-pottery Culture". The ancient painted potteries of the culture are the embodiment of the cultural achievement of Chinese matriclan system in its heyday.
From the Yangshao ruins we could observe compounds with ordered layout. The relics of over 40 houses are unearthed, where there is a big house served as public ground, faced by other dozens of medium and small houses in the shape of a lune. The inhabitants of the culture circle were entombed according to certain burial customs after decease. They were usually buried in a rectangular pit with accompanying articles such as potteries. In a female-centered society like this, women's funerals were ceremonious compared to those of men, and a son shall be buried in the same location with his mother.
Created by the industrious Chinese nation on its homeland thousands of years ago, Yangshao Culture is truly a resplendent civilization in remote antiquity.
The subsistence practices of Yangshao people were varied. They cultivated millet extensively; some villages also cultivated wheat or rice. The exact nature of Yangshao agriculture -- small-scale slash-and-burn cultivation versus intensive agriculture in permanent fields, is currently matter of debate. However, Middle Yangshao settlements such as Jiangzhi contain raised floor buildings that may have been used for the storage of surplus grains. They kept such animals as pigs and dogs, as well as sheep, goats, and cattle, but much of their meat came from hunting and fishing. Their stone tools were polished and highly specialized. The Yangshao people may also have practiced an early form of silkworm cultivation.
Yangshao cordmarked amphora, Banpo phase, 4800 BCE, Shaanxi.The Yangshao culture is well-known for its painted pottery. Yangshao artisans created fine white, red, and black painted pottery with human facial, animal, and geometric designs. Unlike the later Longshan culture, the Yangshao culture did not use pottery wheels in pottery-making. Excavations found that children were buried in painted pottery jars.
The archaeological site of Banpo village, near Xi'an, is one of the best-known ditch-enclosed settlements of the Yangshao culture. Another major settlement called Jiangzhai (姜寨) was excavated out to its limits, and archaeologists found that it was completely surrounded by a ring-ditch. Both Banpo and Jiangzhai also yielded controversial incised marks on pottery which a few have interpreted as numerals or perhaps precursors to the Chinese script. However, such conclusions may be premature.