China News Agency, Beijing, April 15th: Han Jianye: When did early human cultural exchanges break through the barrier of thousands of miles?

  China News Agency reporter Sun Zifa

  From the beginning of the great migration of human beings in the Paleolithic period to before the Silk Road in the Han Dynasty in China, it is widely regarded as the early stage of human cultural exchange.

During this period, how did Eastern and Western cultures break through the barriers of thousands of mountains and rivers to achieve exchanges and mutual learning?

In terms of communication impact, is it "the east wind prevails over the west wind" or "the west wind prevails over the east wind"?

What impact did the early eastern and western cultural exchanges and mutual learning have on future generations?

  Han Jianye, a professor, doctoral tutor, and archaeologist at the School of History, Renmin University of China, recently accepted an exclusive interview with China News Agency "East and West Questions" to interpret the history of cultural exchanges and mutual learning between the East and the West before the emergence of the Silk Road.

The following is a summary of the interview transcript:

China News Service reporter: What is the origin of Eastern and Western cultures?

According to current research, when can the cultural exchanges between the East and the West in human society be traced back?

Han Jianye:

There are three primary civilizations in the world, including Mesoamerican civilization, early Eastern civilization, and early Western civilization.

Among them, in the early Western civilization, whether it was the civilization of the Mesopotamia or the Egyptian civilization, the fire of civilization was "ignited" by the Sumerians.

According to cuneiform records, the Sumerians were "black-headed people from the East", and black-headed people were people with black hair. Some early Sumerian humanoid sculptures had black asphalt hair on their heads.

  Linguists believe that Sumerian is not related to the ancient Asian-African languages ​​of West Asia or the later Indo-European languages, but is closely related to the Sino-Tibetan and Altaic languages ​​of the East.

Therefore, whether the fire of Western civilization that the Sumerians "ignited" came from the East is a very interesting topic that deserves further study.

  As for the earliest stage of cultural exchange between East and West (excluding human migration in the late Paleolithic period), it may have appeared in the Neolithic period, but the evidence is not sufficient at present.

As far as painted pottery is concerned, both China and West Asia were produced at least before 6000 BC, and showed striking similarities to about 4000 BC. Find direct evidence that they communicate with each other.

  The early cultural exchanges between the East and the West should start from the Chalcolithic era around 3500 BC.

Professor Han Jianye (second from left) conducted an on-site inspection of the Nanzuo Ruins in Qingyang, Gansu Province for guidance and exchange.

Photo courtesy of the interviewee

China News Service reporter: You proposed that there were three early cultural circles before the Silk Road in the Eurasian continent, which has attracted much attention in the academic circles.

How are these three circles divided?

What is the relationship between them?

Han Jianye:

The Eurasian continent was the center of early human activities and development, as well as the main stage of early civilization.

Early human cultures have a lot in common, but they are colorful.

The Eurasian continent from the Holocene (about 11,700 years ago) to before the emergence of the Silk Road (in 139 BC Zhang Qian's mission to the Western Regions) can be roughly divided into three major cultural circles, namely, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River in China. The "Early Eastern Cultural Circle" centered on the river basin, the "Early Western Cultural Circle" centered on the Tigris and Euphrates "Little Two River Basins", and the Eurasian Steppe as the main body of the East and West cultural circles in the north "Early Northern Cultural Circle".

  The deep background of the formation of the three major cultural circles in the Eurasian continent in the Holocene lies in the natural geographical environment.

The key to the distinction between the Eastern and Western cultural circles in the early days was the huge obstacle formed by the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which divided two relatively independent geographical units and two cultural units.

Of course, there are differences in the natural environment of the two geographical units, such as climate, topography, animal and plant resources, etc., thus laying the foundation for the unique characteristics of the two cultural circles.

On the other hand, both of the two geographical units belong to the mid-latitude region, with moderate temperature and precipitation and rich soil, so both developed grain agriculture and a civilized society based on it.

  The early northern cultural circle is different. There is no major geographical barrier between it and the east and west cultural circles. Its relative independence is mainly due to the high latitude, low temperature and grassland-forest environment. It is more suitable for hunting and gathering and animal husbandry.

In the later period, the northern cultural circle was greatly influenced by the cultural traditions of the East and the West, and became an important channel for communication between the East and the West.

Millions of livestock in the Altay region of Xinjiang have been transferred.

China News Agency reporter Liu Xinshe

  Cultural exchange is an important mechanism for the development and evolution of the three cultural circles, but it is not always peaceful.

The large-scale interaction zone between the three cultural circles is the result of cultural exchanges, and is often the frontier of cultural collisions and crowd conflicts.

China News Service reporter: In the early three major cultural circles, how did Eastern and Western cultures communicate?

What stages have you gone through?

Han Jianye:

The early cultural exchange between the East and the West mainly refers to the exchanges between the two cultural circles between the East and the West after the great migration of human beings in the Paleolithic Age and before the emergence of the Silk Road in the Han Dynasty. During the three stages of the Iron Age, three communication channels were formed: North Prairie Road, Middle Oasis Road and South Plateau Road. Through exchanges in painted pottery, metal ware, crops, and livestock, the formation and development of Eastern and Western civilizations were promoted.

  The Chalcolithic era was the initial stage of the early cultural exchange between the East and the West.

Although the Eastern European-Southern Russian grassland culture has spread to the northwest of Xinjiang, China through the northern grassland, there is no sign of going further into the hinterland of China.

Items such as painted pottery in southern Central Asia may have entered the Gansu-Qingdao area sporadically through the Middle Oasis Road, forming the initial "painted pottery road". Cattle, sheep, etc. have also entered the Gansu-Qingdao area from Central Asia one after another, and a new economy has emerged in Northwest China. Forms and artistic themes have added fresh blood to the formation of the early Chinese "ancient" civilization.

  The Bronze Age was the flourishing period of early East-West cultural exchanges.

Through the "Metal Road" of the North Prairie Road and the "Painted Pottery Road" of the South Oasis Road, first "the west wind spreads to the east", then "the east wind spreads to the west", and finally the Eurasian continent of the Bronze Age was gradually connected into a whole, triggering China's "Bronze Age Revolution" played a certain role in promoting early China's entry into a mature "kingdom" civilization period.

Bronze ware unearthed from the tomb of Fu Hao in Yin Ruins, Anyang - Bronze gong with round feet.

Photo by Zhang Qingmin issued by China News Agency

  The Early Iron Age was a mature period of early East-West cultural exchanges.

The Eurasian steppe culture, including northern China, was integrated. The artistic and religious concepts of the Eurasian steppe penetrated into the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins from a long distance. The typical cultural factors of the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins spread to South Siberia and other places, while the civilization of southern Central Asia Perhaps it had a certain influence on the "Empire" of Qin and Han Dynasties.

  It can be seen that the formation of the Chalcolithic Age, the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age in most of the Eurasian continent is mainly the result of cultural exchanges between the East and the West.

China News Service reporter: In the early days, the three stages of continuous exchanges and mutual learning between the Eastern and Western cultural circles had an impact on the formation and development of Eastern and Western civilizations?

Han Jianye:

The three major stages of cultural exchange between the East and the West correspond to the three important stages of the formation and development of the East-West civilization. It should not be a coincidence: the bursting of civilization’s inner strength prompted the population to expand outward and the culture to influence the outside world. This may be the emergence of the early East-West cultural exchange. The cultural exchange at each stage brings fresh blood to the Eastern and Western civilizations, promotes the formation and development of the early Eastern and Western civilizations, and shapes the temperament and connotation of the early Eastern and Western civilizations.

  In terms of communication methods, the early cultural exchanges between the East and the West were mainly based on the gradual expansion and migration of people's living space, which was more reflected in the exchange of technology and ideas, rather than the direct exchange of objects.

It was not until the late Warring States Period that there was long-distance trade in which items from the Chinese hinterland spread to South Siberia and other places.

  As far as the direction of communication is concerned, sometimes the "west wind" prevails, and the west has a greater influence on the east, which is "the west wind prevails over the east wind"; ".

But most of the time and generally the two are in a communicative relationship.

  Civilization evolution and cultural exchange are a dialectical relationship that complements and promotes each other.

The long-distance and indirect early cultural exchanges did not fundamentally shake the profound cultural foundations of the early eastern and western civilizations, but they played a role in promoting the formation and development of the early eastern and western civilizations, and laid the foundation for the subsequent formation of the Silk Road.

China News Service reporter: As the core of the oriental cultural circle and oriental civilization, what contributions did Chinese civilization make in the early cultural exchange between the East and the West?

What are the characteristics of your own development?

Han Jianye:

The geographical scope of the early eastern cultural circle, the center is the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, the main body is the "early Chinese cultural circle" covering most of China, the southeast includes Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands, the east involves the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese island, the north It spreads to the Eurasian steppe and westward to Central Asia.

  The earliest pottery in the world was found in South China (including the southern margin of the Yangtze River Basin) and has a history of 20,000 years.

After about 9000 BC, pottery with different appearances began to expand in central and eastern China. Zhejiang Shangshan culture pottery is the earliest painted pottery in the world, and it continues to expand around with time.

  China is also the birthplace of rice and millet agriculture. Rice has been cultivated in the southern margin of the Yangtze River for more than 15,000 years, and millet has been cultivated in North China for more than 10,000 years.

In addition, China has been raising domestic pigs for at least 9,000 years.

The right mandible of a domestic pig about 9,000 years ago is the earliest domestic pig found in China.

Photo by Sun Zifa by China News Agency

  In general, the close connection between the elements of the oriental cultural circle is rooted in settlement and agriculture.

After about 4000 BC, most of the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Liaohe River basins have established agricultural main bodies, forming a dual agricultural system of southern rice and northern millet, and the largest agricultural cultural area in the world.

Pottery is complex and diverse, painted pottery is prevalent, lacquerware and silk fabrics are common, daily life is rich, central settlements appear, social differentiation, forming an early Chinese cultural circle, and expanding its influence to the surrounding areas.

  The super-large settlement society and agricultural economy in early China subtly shaped the concept of stability and introversion among people in East Asia, respecting the gods and ancestors.

Around 3000 B.C., conflicts between groups of people were unprecedentedly fierce, society was dramatically complicated, and early Chinese civilization was officially born.

  The source of Chinese civilization is in China, but cultural factors from the West have also added fresh blood to the formation and early development of Chinese civilization.

The Chinese civilization has cultural genes and rich historical memories accumulated over thousands of years. These are different from other civilizations in the world and are the root of the Chinese nation's endless growth and prosperity.

(Finish)

Interviewee Profile:

  Han Jianye, admitted to the Department of Archaeology of Peking University in 1987, is currently a second-level professor of the School of History, Renmin University of China, a distinguished professor of the "Changjiang Scholars Award Program" of the Ministry of Education, and a member of the 8th Disciplinary Evaluation Group of the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council.

His main research interests are in the fields of Neolithic, Shang and Zhou archaeology in China, ancient Chinese history, environmental archaeology and human-land relations, cultural exchanges between China and the West, and comparison of civilizations. About 20 academic monographs such as "The Origin of the East and the West", and about 200 research papers such as "Three Stages of Early East-West Cultural Exchange" and "The Three Cultural Circles of the Eurasian Continent in the Holocene", and won the Outstanding Achievement Award for Scientific Research in Colleges and Universities 3 times (Humanities and Social Sciences).

He is currently in charge of the National Social Science Foundation major project "Research on the Process of Early Chinese Civilization from the Eurasian Perspective" and the excavation of the Nanzuo site in Qingyang, Gansu.

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