The Archaeological site of the capital of early Shang Dynasty (17th century-11th century BC)

Location: Yanshi, Henan Province

Period: 1,600- 1,400 BC

Excavated from 1983 to the present

Significance: The site is one of many capitals in the Xia and Shang period with the clearest layout and structure. And the find has provided solid evidence for the demarcation of the Xia and Shang cultures.


Ruins of an ancient city some 3,600 years old have been dug out after 15 years' exploration and excavation in Yanshi(偃师Yănshī), Henan Province. The intact city walls and palaces reveal it to have been the capital city of the early Shang Dynasty. The area was named Yanshi Shang City Ruins.

The city was nearly rectangular -- 1,700 meters from north to south and 1,215-740 meters from east to west, comprised of the outer city, inner city and imperial city. Large quantities of stone wares, pottery, bronze ware and jade have been unearthed. The city walls were 18 meters wide and 1-2 meters high, outside of which there was a moat some 18 meters wide. The entire ruins covered 1.9 million square meters. Seven city gates were found, along with an underground drainage channel extending 800 meters from east to west and 10 odd streets with different widths. The ruins also left some traces of the existence of an imperial palace in the southern part of the city.

A smaller city was unearthed in 1997 in the southwest part of the city ruins, measuring 1,100 meters from south to north and 740 meters from east to west. The city walls were 6-7 meters wide. The western and southern walls and the southern part of the eastern wall were incorporated into the walls of the outer large city. This would seem to indicate that the smaller inner city was built earlier than the outer one. The small city might have been built after the Shang overthrew the Xia (2,100-1,600 BC), and the larger city built to consolidate its rule.