The Shanghainese of 6000 Years Ago - the Majiabang Culture

1.       The Ecological Environment of Shanghai 6000 Years Ago

      It was a warm and humid mid subtropical zone climate, the temperature was 2-3°C higher than today. The land was covered by lush growth of evergreen chinquapin and big leave trees. Along with the expanding of the Yangtze River delta towards the sea, the Songze area became farther from the seaside and its land less salty with many lakes and ponds distributed. So there were many water plants in the water and fruits on the trees all year around. Many big and medium mammals were living in the forest, small animals, birds and fishes beside or in the rivers and human beings on the hills.


2.       What is the Majiabang Culture

       Majiabang Culture, a matriarchal society culture in the Taihu Lake reaches, is named after the place—Majiabang in Jiaxing, Zhejiang where it was first discovered in 1959. It dates back to 6000 years ago, and was also found in the lower stratum of the Songze site and the west side of the Fuquanshan site at Qingpu. These are the earliest residential places of the Shanghai people.


3.        The First Shanghai Native (so far the earliest Shanghai native found in archaeological excavations)

       The earliest Shanghai native was discovered from a Majiabang Culture tomb at the lower stratum of the Songze site. It is a pronely buried 25-30 years old man’s skeleton with a quite complete skull. The discovery is of great importance for the study of the ecological environment for human being’s living in Shanghai and the ancient Shanghai people’s communication with outsiders.


4.        Majiabang People’s Way of Life and Mode of Production

       The ancient Shanghai people were mainly living on farming, fishing and hunting.

Paddy Planting

   Cultivated paddies both of the long and short grained of 6000 years ’old excavated from the lower ash pits and stratum of the Songze site, Qingpu look almost the same with the present in size. This evidences the paddy planting was quite developed in the Majiabang Culture period and had a very long history in Shanghai.


Production Tools

      The ancient Shanghai people mainly used stone axes and adzes for “slash-and-burn” farming and making production tools.

      The Majiabang stone tools are mainly axes and adzes. They were entirely polished but perforated by pointed awls from both sides and sometimes with help of chisels. There was nearly no evidence of using advanced tube-drilling perforation.


Stone axe of the Majiabang Culture, Stone adze of the Majiabang Culture


Hand-made Pottery


Coiling up clay strip method

         From the lower stratum of the Songze site, some hand-made pottery vessels were excavated, including pottery Fu (cauldron), Dou (stem bowl) ox-nose shaped vessel’s ear and grate. Most of them are simple and coarse brownish red sandy pottery and a few reddish clay pottery with no decoration, made by coiling up the hand-molded clay strips.

       The Majiabang people used the local clay for their pottery vessels. The vessel Fu (cauldron) with a raised waist is its typical vessel. The Ding (tripod) appeared in its late period. There were also some pottery Pen (basin) and jar but very small in number.


 Pottery Fu (cauldron) of the Majiabang Culture, Pottery Dou (stem bowl) of the Majiabang Culture, Ox-nose shaped vessel’s ear for stringing


Pottery grate


Illustration of the use of pottery Fu (cauldron) together with pottery grate

       The use of grate enables the firepot to have sufficient oxygen to burn the firewood, saving the fuel and speeding the cooking as well. This kind of independently formed grate from the Songze site at Qingpu is the earliest ever found in the whole country. It is another contribution of the ancient Shanghai people to the Chinese civilization.


Fishing and Hunting

       From the lower stratum of the Songze site also excavated domestic pig gum bone, which shows that the living environment of that time was quite stable and pig-raising was great importance in the economic life of the local people. The tools made of various animal bones from the lower stratum of the Songze site at Qingpu also show the importance of fishing and hunting at that tiem. And the fish bones and nuts evidence the food resources of the time.


Spinning and Weaving


Illustration of spinning and weaving

       Relevant material: Three pieces of cloth remnants of 6000 years old (of the early Majiabang Culture) were excavated from the Caoxieshan site at Wuxian, Jiangsu province. The material was authenticated as wild kudzu vine. As the earliest textile ever found in China, they were made of rib stitch in stead of    plain weaving, showing the Majiabang weaving was quite advanced 6000 years ago.


The Earliest Chinese Well


 A vertical section of a well

       There were two wells of 6000 years old excavated from the lower stratum of the Songze site at Qingpu. They are the earliest well ever found in China. Both are made of clay in a tube shape with a smooth wall and rounded bottom. One is about 2 meters deep containing some pottery shards, net weights and animal bones. The well digging and using shows the advance of human civilization and provided a better condition for the settled life of human beings.


Ornaments Processing

       The earliest jade earring worn by the Shanghai women

Jade Jue (slit-ring) of the Majiabang Culture

     Bone hairpin is kind of hair ornament, made of animal bones by cutting, paring and polishing.

Bone hairpin of the Majiabang Culture



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