Researchers have unearthed the remains of a four-courtyard style palace complex dating back to the Xia Dynasty (2070 BCE–1600 BCE) in Xinmi, Henan Province, Central China.
The find, located at the Guchengzhai site on a plateau east of the Zhen River, is anticipated to provide valuable information about the origins of palace architecture during the Xia Dynasty, China’s earliest known ruling house.
The discovery reveals a well-preserved settlement associated with the Longshan culture, an ancient civilization that inhabited modern Henan province and neighboring regions. The rectangular city, covering approximately 17 hectares on the eastern bank of the Zhenshui River, has been a significant archaeological site, believed to have been constructed during the Xia dynasty.
The palace complex, measuring around 200 feet long and 100 feet wide, boasts a foundation structure built using rammed-earth construction techniques. Li Bo, head of the excavation team, explained, “From the holes, we believe that the foundation belonged to a house complex with terraces in the south and north, cloisters in the east and west, and a yard at the center.” The remains cover an area of more than 19,000 square feet.
This discovery is not isolated, as a similar palace complex was also found in Zhoukou, another important archaeological site in Henan Province believed to date back to the Xia dynasty period. Fang Lixia, an archaeologist leading the excavation team in Zhoukou, highlighted the discovery of ash pits, ditches, and circular buildings used for grain storage.
The Xia Dynasty, often regarded as semi-mythical, holds a pivotal place in ancient Chinese history. The first dynasty to establish dynastic succession, it laid the foundation for China’s political system based on hereditary monarchies. The Xia Dynasty was overthrown by the Shang Dynasty, followed by the Zhou Dynasty. While the existence of the Xia Dynasty has been debated, the recent archaeological discoveries challenge previous skepticism.
Li Bo, reflecting on the discoveries in Xinmi, emphasized, “The new findings could improve people’s understanding about the layout of ancient cities, and provide important evidence for studies of the origin and development of Xia palace buildings.” The four-courtyard style architectural complex, revealed through the excavation, challenges previous assumptions about the inner layout of the Guchengzhai site and provides crucial evidence for exploring the origin and development of palace architecture during the Xia Dynasty.
The Zhuqiu Temple site in Zhoukou also played a role in reshaping historical perspectives. Fang Lixia stated, “The discovery will offer fresh resources for researching the history of barn construction in ancient northern China, as well as the degree of development of dry farming agriculture and grain storage technology.”