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27 March 2005
Cleaning of 2,200-year-old bamboo slips completed

The cleaning of 36,000 bamboo slips of Qin Dynasty (221 BCE - 207 BCE) unearthed in Liye ancient city in western part of South China's Hunan province in 2002 has been completed, and now they are under the last protection technologies of decolourization and dewatering. All the protection process will be completed by the end of 2005. Yuan Jiarong, director of Archeological Institute in Hunan province, said that there are hundreds of blank bamboo slips among all the Qin bamboo slips unearthed in the ancient city of Liye. Blank as they are, these blank bamboo slips are still of high research value.
     All the Liye Qin bamboo slips cleaned so far are kept in the storehouse of Hunan Archeological Institute. Yuan noted that the cleaning is only the very first process for the bamboo slips unearthed in Liye. For most of these slips are of woody structure, they need soaking in the chemical liquid to protect from being mouldy and moth-eaten, they also need decolourization and dewatering. The slips will restore to their original bamboo colour and the written materials on the slips will be retained after decolourization. The most important process to preserve these bamboo slips is dewatering, which is also the most difficult procedure.
     According to Zhang Chunlong, associate research fellow who takes charge of unearthing and sorting out the Qin bamboo slips, the written materials, all in ancient Li style, on the bamboo slips and wooden tablets unearthed in ancient city of Liye totaled more than 200,000 characters, and the content are mostly official documents, covering various social issues from politics, economy to culture, which greatly enriched the historic documents and archives for the research on Qin Dynasty.
     While conducting the relevant protection work on the bamboo slips, archeologists are amazed to discover 36,000 blank bamboo slips. Yuan explained that the reason for the blank slips might have two versions: one is people in Qin Dynasty wrote nothing on the slips, the other being the characters written on the slip have fallen off. However, the working personnel could conduct experiments and scientific analysis on these blank slips, providing important materials for the comprehensive research on the Qin bamboo slips.

Source: People's Daily Online (24 March 2005)

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