Gateway to Maritime Silk Road


Huanghua, a pivotal city along MSR

BY :丝路云帆

UPDATED :July 31, 2020


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Compared with other cities which served as trade hubs along the ancient Maritime Silk Road, such as Guangzhou in Guangdong province and Quanzhou in Fujian province, Huanghua, a county-level city bordering the Bohai Sea in North China's Hebei province was less known until recent years when a series of archaeological discoveries were uncovered there.  

1. Human activities in Huanghua date back to 7,000 years ago

Huanghua is a historical city with traces of human activities dating back to some 7,000 years ago. It boasts 197 historical sites, including 171 ancient villages, 13 ancient tombs, 1 ancient building, 4 ancient temples and stone inscriptions as well as 6 sites of modern times.

2. Fudi City Ruins

To learn about the history of Huanghua, you can start with the exploration of the Ruins of Fudi City, which is located at Liupi village in the north of the city and has been listed as one of the main protected sites in Hebei province since 1982. 

An aerial view of Fudi City Ruins

Scattering around a wide area of 400,000 square meters, the Ruins is surrounded by the remaining city walls. A number of green-glazed earthen bowls, triangular bronze arrows and helmets were unearthed there.

One of the most breathtaking discoveries in Fudi City Ruins was the excavation of over 110 ancient urn-burial tombs dating back more than 2,000 years ago. Some of the tombs were buried with children remains along with a number of pottery burial objects such as axes, urns and pots.

An urn coffin of children in Fudi City Ruins

In 2017, the discovery of the ancient urn-burial tombs in Fudi City Ruins was selected as one of the top archaeological discoveries of 2016, while in 2019, Fudi City Ruins was chosen as one of the national protected historical sites.

3. Huanghua Ancient City Ruins

With a history of over 1,400 years, Huanghua Ancient City was set up in the seventh year of Emperor Wenxuan's reign in the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) but ruined in the ninth year of  Emperor Hongwu's reign in the Ming Dynasty.

A part of Huanghua Ancient City Ruins

The ruins of the ancient city of Huanghua has profound culture and abundant relics such as bronze wares and porcelain in the Han Dynasty, bone-made objects and stone objects in the Tang and Song dynasties as well as stone figures from between the Northern Qi and Tang Dynasties.

One of the cultural relics unearthed in the Huanghua Ancient City Ruins

4. The Ruins of Guanxi City

According to Shi Ji  (Records of the Grand Historian of China) by Sima Qian during the Western Han Dynasty, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty once assigned an alchemist named Xu Fu to search for the elixir of life at sea. Guanxi City was the place they dwelled during the journey.

A picture depicting the story of Xu Fu bringing little boys and girls along on his voyage to search for the elixir of life

Quantities of hollow bricks with geometric patterns, red pottery pieces, grey pottery pieces with plain surface, pots and axes were unearthed from the Ruins of Guanxi City, which filled in the blanks of archaeology in northern coastal ports of China.

Excavations of the Ruins of Guanxi City

5. Haifeng Town Ruins

Unveiled to the public in 1986, Haifeng Town Ruins was found with a raft of locally-made porcelain wares from Ding kiln and Cizhou kiln, as well as products from some popular kilns such as Longquan kiln in Zhejiang and Jingdezhen kiln in Jiangxi province.

Haifeng Town Ruins

Based on the cultural relics and relevant materials, archaeologists believed that in history porcelain might have been sold from Haifeng Town to other Asian countries, like South Korea and Japan or even further. They also suggested that Haifeng Town might have been the starting point of the northern part of the ancient maritime trade route.

Cultural relics on display in the Museum of Haifeng Town Ruins

6. Ancient Salt-boiling sites 

Huanghua and its surrounding areas were the main salt producing areas in ancient China. Salt-boiling sites from the Eastern Zhou and Sui and Tang dynasties have been discovered there before, and a salt-boiling site dating back to the Jin and Yuan dynasties was found in this June in the city, allowing archaeologists to explore how to produce salt in ancient times.

The discovery of the salt cooking pits in the salt-boiling sites plays an important part in studying the salt-making process.

Salt extracted from remains at the salt-boiling sites

Based on series of archaeological discoveries, archaeologists believe that Huanghua is a vital transit point along the ancient Maritime Silk Road. The amazing discoveries in the city also provide scholars with clues to study the means of cultural exchanges between east Asian countries.