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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

And here the painted pottery was found


The

_Yang-shao culture_ takes its name from a prehistoric settlement in the west of the present province of Honan, where Swedish investigators discovered it. Typical of this culture is its wonderfully fine pottery, apparently used as gifts to the dead. It is painted in three colours, white, red, and black. The patterns are all stylized, designs copied from nature being rare. We are now able to divide this painted pottery into several sub-types of specific distribution, and we know that this style existed from _c_. 2200 B.C. on. In general, it tends to disappear as does painted pottery in other parts of the world with the beginning of urban civilization and the invention of writing. The typical Yang-shao culture seems to have come to an end around 1600 or 1500 B.C. It continued in some more remote areas, especially of Kansu, perhaps to about 700 B.C. Remnants of this painted pottery have been found over a wide area from Southern Manchuria, Hopei, Shansi, Honan, Shensi to Kansu; some pieces have also been discovered in Sinkiang. Thus far, it seems that it occurred mainly in the mountainous parts of North and North-West China. The people of this culture lived in villages near to the rivers and creeks. They had various forms of houses, including underground dwellings and animal enclosures. They practiced some agriculture; some authors believe that rice was already known to them. They also had domesticated animals. Their implements were of stone with rare specimens of bone. The axes were
of the rectangular type. Metal was as yet unknown, but seems to have been introduced towards the end of the period. They buried their dead on the higher elevations, and here the painted pottery was found. For their daily life, they used predominantly a coarse grey pottery.

After the discovery of this culture, its pottery was compared with the painted pottery of the West, and a number of resemblances were found, especially with the pottery of the Lower Danube basin and that of Anau, in Turkestan. Some authors claim that such resemblances are fortuitous and believe that the older layers of this culture are to be found in the eastern part of its distribution and only the later layers in the west. It is, they say, these later stages which show the strongest resemblances with the West. Other authors believe that the painted pottery came from the West where it occurs definitely earlier than in the Far East; some investigators went so far as to regard the Indo-Europeans as the parents of that civilization. As we find people who spoke an Indo-European language in the Far East in a later period, they tend to connect the spread of painted pottery with the spread of Indo-European-speaking groups. As most findings of painted pottery in the Far East do not stem from scientific excavations it is difficult to make any decision at this moment. We will have to wait for more and modern excavations.

From our knowledge of primeval settlement in West and North-West China we know, however, that Tibetan groups, probably mixed with Turkish elements, must have been the main inhabitants of the whole region in which this painted pottery existed. Whatever the origin of the painted pottery may be, it seems that people of these two groups were the main users of it. Most of the shapes of their pottery are not found in later Chinese pottery.


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