The Shanrong people

July 10th, 2007

So trying to figure out what was happening in and around prehistoric Yanqing is rather frustrating, as is trying to figure out exactly who the Xiongnu and Shanrong were and where they came from. But what can we find out about the Shanrong? Fortunately, 延庆文化网 has an online exhibition of the Shanrong. The foreword is interesting:

长城既是人类活动的伟大象�,也是一个��的地�标志——它与400毫 米等�雨线大体��,它是高原和平原之间的�差,干旱与�干旱两大地区在此分�扬镳,但更为��的是�原民�与农耕民�在这里树立起�自家园的文化藩篱 ——长城的���义�在于它阻挡了匈奴人的�骑,而在于以它为背景�建了一个舞�,一个�等到工业时代�临时�能被部分打破的舞�——燕山长城地带。两侧 的人类群体在这个拉锯地带上演了一幕幕他们之间爱与��战争与交�的悲喜剧。数�年�,燕山长城地带,这个无怨无悔地燃烧�麦秸和���燃烧�东胡北狄和 夷�大防的熔炉,�为推动中�文明乃至东亚大陆历��展的动力�。

Now, I had to fudge on a bit of the translation because there’s a clause in there that neither lzh nor I can make head nor tail of, but here goes:

As the Great Wall is a great symbol of human activity, it is also an important geographical marker- it largely follows the 400 millimetre rainfall line, it is the drop in elevation from the plateau to the plain, it’s here that the arid and semi-arid regions part company, but most importantly it is here that the grasslands peoples and agricultural peoples built a cultural barrier between each of their homes. The important significance of the Great Wall is not that it stopped the heavy cavalry of the Xiongnu, but with it as a backdrop a stage was set up, a stage that had to wait until the coming of the industrial age for part of it to be damaged- the Yan Shan Great Wall belt. Scene by scene, the peoples of both sides acted out their tragicomedy of love and hate, war and communication in this zone of seesaw struggle. Over thousands of years, this crucible burning with neither resentment nor regret wheat straw and weeds, burning Donghu Northern Di and Yi and Xia, became a source of energy pushing forward the development of Chinese civilisation and the history of continental East Asia.

Well, it’s very vague and a bit overwrought in places, but it’s just a foreword, a teaser to get you all interested in these mysterious Shanrong people, and besides, I like how it sets the scene.

Well, from one source I thought rather unlikely, we have this:

1985年8月至1987年12月,北京的文物工作者在延庆县境内�掘出玉皇庙��城��葫芦沟三处春秋战国之际的山戎墓葬五百余座,出土�类富有特色的山戎文物八�余件。这些�迹和�物,对于研究北京地区山戎的历�情况,有�很��的�义。

   玉皇庙墓地是一处很é‡?è¦?的大型墓地,å? åœ°åœ¨2万平方米以上,共有墓葬三百五å??余座,这是迄今为止在北京地区å?‘现的我国é?’铜时代北方少数民æ—?文化é?—存中规 模最大ã€?年代最早ã€?文物最丰富的一处墓地。æ?®å·²ç»?å?‘掘的墓葬看,å?‡ä¸ºé•¿æ–¹å½¢ç«–穴土å?‘墓。墓内的殉牲现象很普é??,被æ?€æ®‰çš„牲畜主è¦?是牛ã€?羊ã€?狗,其中以殉狗 最为普é??,ä¸?论男女è€?幼,大多殉狗。殉牲的方å¼?,都是将牲畜æ?€æ­»ä»¥å?Žï¼Œå?ªå?–其头和腿,拿æ?¥ä½œè±¡å¾?性的祭祀。牲头和牲腿的摆放方å¼?,多是将牲腿放在下é?¢ï¼Œè€Œ 把牲头放在牲腿之上,一般是以一æ?¡ç‰²è…¿åŠ ä¸Šä¸€ä¸ªç‰²å¤´ï¼Œä»£è¡¨ä¸€ä¸ªç‰²ç•œã€‚多数死者都用麻布覆é?¢ï¼Œè¿™æ˜¯å±±æˆŽæ°‘æ—?的葬俗特点之一,直到今天,我们还有在死者脸上盖 上黄纸的习俗,他们也许表达的是å?Œä¸€ç§?丧葬æ„?æ€?。根æ?®æœ‰å…³æ°‘æ—?å¿—çš„æ??料,这类覆é?¢çš„æ„?义,在于祈望死者的ç?µé­‚附体安æ?¯ï¼Œä¸?è¦?å†?出çª?祸害生人,以ä¿?æ°?æ—?å?Žä»£ 平安无æ?™ã€‚å?Œæ—¶ï¼Œåœ¨è‘«èŠ¦æ²Ÿå¢“地还å?‘现了一处石祭å?›ã€‚è¿™å?¯èƒ½æ˜¯å±±æˆŽåŽŸå§‹å®—教举行仪å¼?和活动的处所。

My terrible translation:

From August 1985 until December 1987, Beijing cultural relics workers in Yanqing County excavated over 500 Shanrong graves of the Spring and Autumn and Warring states periods at the three sites of Yuhuangmiao, Guchengcun, Hulugou and unearthed over 8000 pieces of every kind of cultural relic richly characteristic of the Shanrong. These historical remains and relics have a very important significance with regards to the situation of the research of the history of the Shanrong in the Beijing area.

The Yuhuangmiao tomb area is a very important large tomb area, covering an area of over twenty thousand square metres, with over 350 tombs in total. Up till now this is the largest scale, earliest, most abundant in cultural relics tomb area of China’s northern ethnic minority cultures of the bronze age discovered in the Beijing area. Judging by already excavated tombs, without exception the tombs are vertical rectangular coffin pits. Animal sacrifices within the tombs are very widespread, the main domestic animals to be sacrificed being cattle, sheep and dogs, with dogs being the most commonly sacrificed, regardless of male, female, old or young, the majority sacrificed dogs. The method of sacrificing domestic animals was to, after having killed the animal, to only take the legs and head to offer a symbolic sacrifice. The method of placing the placing the head and leg of the animal in general was to place the animal leg on the bottom and place the animal head on top of the animal leg, in general one animal head was placed on top of one animal leg to represent a sacrifice. The majority of the dead had a cloth (linen? sackcloth? hessian?) covering their face, which is one of the characteristics of Shanrong burial customs. Right up to today we still have the custom of covering dead peoples faces with yellow paper. Probably they were expressing the same kind of funerary meaning. According to materials about the ideals of ethnic groups, the significance of this kind of covering the face lies in the hope that the spirit of the dead person will rest close to the body and won’t come back out and bring disaster on or hurt the living, to protect the good health and safety of later generations of the clan. At the same time at the Hulugou tomb area a stone funeral altar was discovered. Perhaps this was the original place the Shanrong held religious ceremonies and activities. 

So the translation is atrocious, I know. Help and suggestions for improving those areas I’ve either fudged or completely buggered up  would be appreciated. Anyway, there you have it,  a brief introduction to what kind of people these Shanrong may have been and what kind of lives (apart from harrassing Yan) they may have led. Now let’s see what else I can dredge up.  This article, a large part of which is identical to what is translated above, expands on the theme of Shanrong culture:

 

平底陶�: 从墓地出土的陶器�看,山戎文化的陶器自有特点�自�系统,它�仅与中原地区和燕文化的陶器群�貌迥然��,而且与东北辽西地区�家店上层文化——东胡文 化的陶器群�貌也差异明显。山戎的陶器多为手制,器形�大规整,制作粗糙,�候低而��,陶质��,显示出技术的��。

Flat-bottomed pottery jars: judging by the pottery unearthed from tombs, Shanrong culture pottery has its own characteristics, has its own system. Not only are its features widely different from the pottery of the Central Plains and Yan cultures, they’re also clearly different from the features of the Northeast’s Liaoxi area’s Upper Xiajiadian and Donghu cultures’ pottery. Most Shanrong pottery was handmade, the shapes of the utensils were not regular, their manufacture was crude, after firing the bottom wasn’t flat, the quality of the pottery was loose, showing its backward technology.

So obviously the Shanrong people were not the Upper Xiajiadian people, as I suspected. And more from the same article:

 

�铜器的�类很多,包括兵器�工具�装饰器�车马具和容器等。山戎的�铜容器,明显地表现出两�文化因素,一�是体现了山戎文化土著特色的器物,如铸工粗 糙的�耳�铜�和兽头环耳三足�;�一�是体现燕国和中原文化因素的器物,如蟠螭纹铜�云纹铜盘等。这使我们清楚地看到两�文化�生接触�相互交�的情 况。从出土的器物中�以看出,当时的山戎已�进入了�铜时代,过�以游牧�济为主的生活

There were many kinds of bronze ware, including weapons, tools, ornaments, equipment for horses and carts, containers, and more. Shanrong bronze containers clearly show clearly show elements of two kinds of culture. One kind embodies the original characteristics of the utensils of Shanrong culture, such as the coarse casting of twin-eared bronze products and tripod cups with beast’s heads and ring ear. Another kind embodies elements of the wares of the cultures of the State of Yan and the Central Plains, like bronze etched with coiled wingless dragons, cloud etched bronze plates , etc. Through this we can clearly see the situation of contact and mutual communication between two different cultures. From the unearthed wares we can see that at that time the Shanrong had already entered the Bronze Age, with nomadic herding being their main way of life.

Now both lzh and I tried our best to find the proper names of all those different bronze things, and what is written there is the best we could come up with.

So basically the Shanrong were nomadic herders with their own distinct culture who sacrificed animals when a person died,  had their own unique if rather backward pottery and a mixture of their own and Yan and Central Plains bronze ware and a nasty habit of attacking Yan, Zhao and Qi. And they were quite powerful, too.  I still can’t figure out why I’ve found no reference to them in non-Chinese sources.

And should you want more information about the Shanrong people, I suggest you check out that online exhibition. It’s getting late and I’m getting worn out from all this, sorry. Anyway, I think we’ve gotten a good enough idea of who the Shanrong were, and so tomorrow I’ll move on to later periods of history. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across a lot of information yet. Almost everything I’ve seen mentions the Shanrong then fast forwards to the revolutionary/anti-Japanese war era.

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