For a long time, it had been believed that the Chinese civilization was originated in the Yellow River basin, and the Xia dynasty was the first that ruled from approximately 2070 to 765 BC over China.
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However, long before the appearance of the Xia rulers, there were even more ancient cultures in the provinces of China.
The Hongshan culture (Neolithic) is considered to be one of the oldest cultures which came into existence about 6,500 years ago. At that time, people lived in the area between Inner Mongolia and the modern Chinese provinces of Liaoning and Hebei. It is believed that Hongshan culture flourished in that region sometime between 4700-2900 BC.
People of the Hongshan culture are supposed to have created the first state entity in China. They were first to start processing jade, carving figures out of it, and making decorations of amazing perfection.
Apparently, they considered it a sacred stone, since jade products are often found in graves that belong to this culture. It is believed that it was during the Hongshan era when the dragon cult originated in China.
The earliest extant image of a dragon, also carved from jade, dates from this period. The dragon motif (Chinese dragon) is often present in the works of ancient masters of the Hongshan culture, which include not only carved jade items but also painted ceramics.
Archaeological research in recent years has made it possible to learn a lot of interesting things about the life of those ancient people, but a lot of information about their spiritual and everyday life is still shrouded in mystery.
It is known that the Hongshan people also built pyramids. One of such pyramids was discovered by Chinese archaeologists in 2001 in the north of China, in the region of Inner Mongolia. According to archeologist Guo Dashun, one three-stepped pyramid belongs to the Hongshan culture period of 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, during the Stone Age.
At the top of the pyramid, they found the ruins of an altar, a stone statue of a goddess as tall as a man, and seven burials. In the burials, as well as in the vicinity of the altar, many jade ornaments and figurines were found.
Some of the figures depict creatures completely unlike any other modern inhabitant of our planet. Scientists find it too hard to explain their symbolism.
Some people believe that those are the images of demons or spirits associated with Shamanism, while others believe that those are just people in masks.
There is also an opinion that the jade figurines of the Hongshan culture depict aliens, and it can be justified by looking at the strange figurines which resemble extraterrestrials.
In 1983, statues of mysterious deities were discovered in the underground temple of Nyuheliang, the most impressive monument of the ancient Hongshan civilization. Interestingly, they contain no information about the traditions of Ancient China.
This huge religious center is the most significant cultural heritage site of the Hongshan culture. The central point of the sanctuary, covering an area of 50 square kilometers, is an underground temple, where the goddess worships used to happen.
Archaeologists found a fragment of the clay sculpture depicting the head of a woman with eyes inlaid with jade, and massive figures of deities, and clay figurines as large as the size of three humans.
According to Liu Guoxiang, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology, the underground temple was dedicated to the goddess of fertility, but what those huge clay idols were meant to represent remains unclear.
The Niuheliang site is sometimes compared to the British Stonehenge since a number of its structures like vertical stones, stone circles, etc. clearly have an astronomical motif. Perhaps, those landmarks were used to fix the points of sunrise and sunset on the days of the solstice and equinox, as well as to observe other astronomical phenomena.
Obviously, complex rituals related to the cult of heaven and earth were performed in the Niuheliang site. Their nature is still unclear, as well as the system of religious beliefs of the Hongshan people, and only further research will possibly give answers to all the questions and shed light on the mysterious creatures whose images were so carefully captured in jade by the ancient people.