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27 March 2004
7,400-year-old jar gives clue to phoenix-worshipping myth

A 7,400-year-old pottery jar stamped with the design of two flying phoenixes has been excavated recently in central China's Hunan Province, helping archaeologists unveil the secret of the "birth" of the sacred bird.  The two phoenixes have the typical characteristics of the legendary phoenix, which has a crest on its head, a long beak, a long neck and a long beautiful feathered tail. The phoenix and the dragon are the most worshipped legendary creatures in China since ancient times.
     The discovery showed that ancient Chinese myths relating to phoenixes dated back at least 7,400 years, said He Gang, head of the Hunan provincial archaeological research institute. He headed the excavations at the Gaomiao Culture Ruins, covering 15,000 square meters, a Neolithic age site near Yanli Village of Chatou Township, Hongjiang City, unearthing a great deal of items that relate to religious rituals.
     "The designs of the phoenix on the jar are far more delicate than of two similar birds on an ivory dish, unearthed several years ago from a site of the Hemudu Culture, dating back 4,000 to 7,000 years ago, in Yuyao County, east China's Zhejiang Province," said He Gang. Discoveries of religious and sacrificial items at the site provide material for studying the religious awareness, beliefand art of the prehistoric people, he said.

Source: People's Daily (26 March 2004)

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