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Archaeoastronomical Evidence for Wuism at the Hongshan Site of Niuheliang

By Sarah M. Nelson
, Rachel A. Matson
, Rachel M. Roberts
, Chris Rock
Robert E. Stencel
The Neolithic Hongshan Cltre !lorished bet"een #$%% and &%%% BCE in "hat
is today northeastern China and 'nner Mongolia ()igre 1*. +illage sites are !ond in the
northern ,art o! the region, "hile the t"o cere-onial sites o! .ongshan/i and
Niheliang are located in the soth, "here 0illages are !e"er (1i 2%%&*. The Hongshan
inhabitants inclded agricltralists "ho clti0ated -illet and ,igs !or sbsistence, and
acco-,lished artisans "ho car0ed !inely cra!ted 2ades and -ade thin black3on3red
,ottery. 4rgani/ed labor o! a large n-ber o! "orkers is sggested by se0eral i-,ressi0e
constrctions, inclding an arti!icial hill containing three rings o! -arble3like stone,
se0eral high cairns "ith elaborate interiors and a 22 -eter long bilding "hich contained
!rag-ents o! li!e3si/ed states. 4ne o! the !rag-ents "as a !ace "ith inset green 2ade
eyes ()igre 2*. A ranked society is i-,lied by the s,ecial treat-ents accorded brials,
all o! "hich inclde decorati0e 2ades -ade in s,eci!ic, ,ossibly iconogra,hic, sha,es. No
brials o! non3elite ha0e been !ond. 't has been arged ,re0iosly that the si/es and
locations o! the -onded to-bs i-,ly at least three elite ranks (Nelson 1556*.
The Nature of Leadership
Hongshan scholars agree that the elite brials are those o! leaders, bt the natre
o! that leadershi, still needs to be elcidated. 7e ,ro,ose that the Chinese "ord wu is
a,,ro,riate to a,,ly to the Hongshan leaders, and, !ollo"ing Tong (2%%2*, "e se the
ter- wuism to describe their sha-anistic acti0ities. 7e arge that this designation is
a,,ro,riate !or the Hongshan cltre (8ak, et al. 2%%#*.
Sha-anis-, rital and -agic are 2st beginning to be identi!ied in archaeological
sites. Ral,h Merri!ield de!ines rital and -agic as 9,ractices intended to gain ad0antage
or a0ert disaster by the -ani,lation o! s,ernatral ,o"er: (15;<=>ii*. Neil 8rice is
,articlarly hel,!l in describing the kinds o! -aterial cltre !ond in sha-anistic
conte>ts (2%%1=&*. Notably, !igrines !ond on the chests o! sha-ans in Siberia (.e0let
2%%1=$2* are si-ilar to so-e !inds in Hongshan brials.
?lia Ching (155<*, in ad0ancing her thesis that high leadershi, is related to
-ysticis-, begins her e>,loration in the Chinese Neolithic. @. C. Chang (e.g. 15;&,
155#* has been a strong ad0ocate o! the inter,retation o! sha-anistic leadershi, in China.
1ikely sha-anistic connections "ith s,eci!ic arti!acts ha0e also been ,ro,osed (Childs3
?ohnson 15;;*. 'n addition, se0eral archaeologists at a recent Chinese con!erence arged
s,eci!ically that the Hongshan leaders "ere wu (8ak, et al. 2%%#A Bang 2%%#*.
7hile there are no "ritten doc-ents !ro- this ,eriod in Chinese history, the
,resence and in!lence o! wu in the Hongshan cltre -ay be inter,reted by ,ro2ecting
back"ards !ro- doc-ents kno"n in later ,eriods in China. ChinaCs earliest e>tant
"riting co-es !ro- the Shang dynasty, created by car0ing Chinese characters into bone
"ith a shar, instr-ent. The character !or wu (-eaning a ,erson "ho can reach the
.e,art-ent o! Anthro,ology, Dni0ersity o! .en0er, .en0er, Colorado, DSA
.e,art-ent o! 8hysics and Astrono-y, Dni0ersity o! .en0er, .en0er, Colorado, DSA
8o"ers* !irst a,,ears in these Shang oracle bones, bt it is not ntil the early Eho
dynasty (ca. 1%$%3221 BCE* that the acti0ities o! the wu "ere recorded. As described in
the Zhou Li, the wu "ere res,onsible !or di0ination, -edicine and healing, -sic,
dancing and star3ga/ing ()alkenhasen 155$*. By engaging in rhyth-ic dr--ing and
dancing, wu "ere able to go into trance and transcend the earthly real- in order to
co--nicate "ith the celestial s,irit "orld (Tong 2%%2=&$*.
7e !ocs here on astrono-ical obser0ations in ,articlar becase 9the -ain
,r,ose o! Chinese astrono-y "as to stdy the correlation bet"een Fh-anityG and FtheG
ni0erse: (Sn 2%%%=#2$*. Chinese astrono-y is kno"n to date back to the Neolithic,
and it has continosly in0ol0ed relationshi,s bet"een h-an beings, es,ecially the
leaders, and ,heno-ena in the skies (8ankenier 2%%%*. By creating calendars and
obser0ing the a,,arent -o0e-ents o! the hea0enly bodies, leaders sch as wu correlated
occrrences in the sky "ith e0ents on earth.
Archaeoastrono-y ,ro0ides a se!l interdisci,linary !ra-e"ork !or e>a-ining
the connection bet"een wuism and astrono-y in Neolithic China. By co-bining
kno"ledge o! the Hongshan cltre "ith ne" research on the night sky o! the region
-ore than $%%% years ago, archaeoastrono-y re!lects the terrestrial3celestial ideology "e
"ish to e>a-ine. Ths, by ,resenting both archaeological and astrono-ical lines o!
e0idence, "e ,ro,ose that the wu "ere acti0ely creating a connection bet"een hea0en
and earth at the Hongshan site o! Niheliang ()igre &*.
Archaeological Evidence
Sha-anistic acti0ity is i-,lied by -ch o! the archaeological e0idence at
Niheliang. Si-ilarly, archaeological continities bet"een the Hongshan and later
cltres ,oint to the ,resence o! wu in Neolithic northeast China. 4racle bones "ithot
"riting "ere sed by cltres conte-,oraneos "ith the Hongshan sggesting that they
-ay ha0e ,racticed a si-ilar !or- o! di0ination long be!ore the Shang (@eightley 15<;*.
'n the !irst centry BCE, the Zhou Bi Suan Jing otlined the gai tian cos-ogra,hy in
"hich the earth "as sHare, co0ered by a rond hea0en (Cllen 1556*. The ,resence o!
both rond and sHare strctres at Hongshan cere-onial centers sggests that this
cos-ological -odel "as ,resent in Chinese society long be!ore it "as "ritten do"n in
the 0ersion e>tant today.
7hile 2ade is !ond e0en in the earliest Neolithic sites in northeast China, it is
only "ith the a,,earance o! the Hongshan cltre that 2ade is clearly sed in rital
acti0ities (Teng 155<*. The relationshi, bet"een 2ade and both royalty and religion is
"ell established in China (1a!er 15<#*. )or e>a-,le, a brial at 1ocality $ contained a
large clod3sha,ed ,endant, se0eral sHared rings and t"o ?ade trtles ()igre #*. The
n-ber and Hality o! the 2ade orna-ents ,robably re!lected the elite stats o! the
indi0idal, bt in addition they sggest wuist acti0ities. Wu o!ten acted as healers and
,hysicians (Tong 2%%2=#;3#5* and the qi (s,irit or ,o"er* that 2ade "as belie0ed to
,ossess -ade it a ,otent -edicinal sbstance. The wu also sed their skills as dancers
and -sicians to ,er!or- rain cere-onies dring ,eriods o! droght (Ching 155<*. The
clod3sha,ed 2ade that "as !ond "ith the indi0idal at 1ocality $ -ay i-,ly rain3
-aking ritals, and indeed -any o! the sha,es o! Hongshan 2ades cold be inter,reted as
being associated "ith "ater (Nelson 1551*. The trtle and ring3sha,ed 2ades e>ca0ated at
the site -ay re!lect Chinese cos-ology, another area o! s,eciali/ation !or the wu= the t"o
9sHare: rings "ith circlar holes re!lect the gai tian cos-ogra,hy "hile the trtles -ay
re,resent the cos-ic tortoise "hich "as belie0ed to hold , the sky (Allan 1551*.
A recently disco0ered 2ade in an elite brial at 1ocality 16 o! Niheliang also
sggests connections "ith the later wu (Io 155<, 2%%#*. A large 2ade bird "as !ond
nder the skll o! a brial ()igre $*, sggesting a connection bet"een the deceased and
sacred birds as -essengers o! 8o"ers (@eightley 2%%%*. Birds "ere ,ro-inent in Shang
dynasty (ca. 1$%%31%$% BCE* -ythology (Allan 1551*, and those belie!s are likely to
ha0e been o! considerable age by the ti-e o! the Shang.
Se0eral !rag-ents o! large, nbaked clay states "ere e>ca0ated at 1ocality 1
(co--only re!erred to as the Ioddess Te-,le* inclding a !ace "ith 2ade eyes ()igre
2*, as "ell as a sholder and breast that i-,ly the state is !e-ale. S-all !e-ale !igrines
"ere e>ca0ated !ro- .ongshan/i, as "ell as a seated state "earing a knotted ro,e
arond the "aist. So-e !rag-ents i-,ly that states at Niheliang "ere larger than li!e3
si/ed (Io 2%%&*. Certainly the cere-onial natre o! the Ioddess Te-,le and the si/e o!
the !igres sggest that these states ser0ed a rital !nction, a !nction that "as -ost
likely reali/ed by religios s,ecialists sch as wu.
As the na-e o! the site sggests, the states nearthed at the Ioddess Te-,le
"ere inter,reted by the e>ca0ators as re,resentations o! !e-ale deities (Sn and Io
15;#*. Ho"e0er, an alternate inter,retation -ay be e>,lored. 7hile the ter- wu o!ten
re!ers to all early Chinese sha-ans regardless o! gender, it "as originally sed to
describe !e-ale sha-ans e>clsi0ely (Ching 155<=1$, Tong 2%%2=&#*. Also, becase o!
the belie! o! the great -edicinal ,otency o! 2ade, so-e scholars ha0e ,ro,osed that 92ade3
"orking "as -ono,oli/ed by sha-ans: (Teng 155<=1%*. Ths, it is ,ossible that the clay
!ace "ith 2ade eyes !ro- the Ioddess Te-,le is a ,ortrait o! a !e-ale wu.
Painted Pottery
Most o! the Niheliang to-bs are srronded by broken ,ottery cylinders ()igre
6*, "hich once stood ne>t to each other in ro"s near the oter edges o! the to-bs. Io
.ashn (155$* esti-ated that i! all the -onded brials kno"n at Niheliang "ere
srronded by ro"s o! these 2ars, 1%,%%% o! the- -st ha0e been -ade. Becase these
cylinders "ere o,en at both ends they "ere clearly not sed as containers. Hongshan
,ainted ,ottery has been !ond in rital conte>ts, sggesting that ,ainted ,ottery "as
,rodced ,ri-arily !or cere-onial ,r,oses. There!ore "e -ay in!er that there "as a
highly ,rodcti0e cera-ics indstry in or near Niheliang that "as dedicated to the
creation o! cere-onial ,ottery.
The tre !nction o! these cylinders contines to be debated bt "e ,ose a !easible
inter,retation. According to Tong En/heng, ,ottery dr-s "ere integral to wuist
acti0ities and "ere 9s,ecially -an!actred !or the deceased to enable the- to
co--nicate "ith the s,irital "orld: (Tong 2%%2=&$*. The ,ottery cylinders !ond in
the sHare to-b at 1ocality 2 cold ha0e been sed as dr-s by stretching hides o0er the
o,en ends. Hence, the ,ainted ,ottery sherds and cylinders !ond throghot the site
,ro0ide another sggestion that wu "ere ,resent and acti0e at Niheliang.
So-e o! the -ost intriging archaeological e0idence !or wuism at Niheliang
co-es !ro- the siteCs architectral strctres, inclding the Ioddess Te-,le (1ocality 1*.
The distincti0e otline o! the Te-,le ()igre <* -ay be inter,reted as a ya, a crci!or-
sha,e "hich has signi!icance in Chinese cos-ogra,hy. The ya "as a re,resentation o!
the !i0e cardinal directions= north, soth, east, "est and center. Si-ilarly, according to
Chinese -ythology, the sky "as s,,orted abo0e the earth by a cos-ic trtle "hose
lo"er shell, or ,lastron, "as ya3sha,ed (Allan 1551*. '! the Ioddess Te-,le "as indeed
an early re,resentation o! a ya3sha,ed cos-os, then its architectre -ay ha0e been an
atte-,t to create a re,resentation o! hea0en on earth, or to sy-boli/e the connection
bet"een earth and hea0en. Becase one o! the ,ri-ary dties o! wu "as to connect the
terrestrial and the celestial, this cos-ic architectre -ay be e0idence !or the ,o"er!l
in!lence o! the wu at Niheliang.
The ,lace-ent o! to-bs at Niheliang also sggests the in!lence o! wu. All bt
one o! the to-b gro,s at the site are ,ositioned on to, o! ,ro-inent hills "ith e>cellent
0ie"s o! the entire Niheliang area. These 0antage ,oints o!!er a better 0ie" o! the night
sky and "old ha0e been ,ri-e s,ots !or star3ga/ing. By ,lacing the to-bs on hills the
Hongshan ,laced the deceased in closer ,ro>i-ity to the hea0ens and, ths, in closer
,ro>i-ity to the real- o! the ancestors. Hence, the in!lence o! wu as !acilitators o! a
terrestrial3celestial association -ay ha0e sha,ed architectre and to-b constrction at
8erha,s the best architectral e0idence !or wuism at Niheliang are the rond and
sHare strctres !ond throghot the site. Becase ancient Chinese lore described a
rond hea0en "hich en0elo,ed a sHare earth, these strctres -ay ha0e been
re,resentations o! the celestial and terrestrial real-s. 7hile circlar rings o! "hite stones
are !ond in se0eral localities, the -ost co-,elling e0idence !or the architectral
re,resentation o! the gai tian cos-ogra,hy is !ond at 1ocality 2. Here, to-bs that are
both sHare and circlar in grond ,lan lie side by side "ith other strctres "ithot
brials that ha0e been inter,reted as altars. 8erha,s these constrctions "ere intended to
re,resent gai tian cos-ogra,hy.
As a re,resentation o! both the celestial and the terrestrial, 1ocality 1& -ay ha0e
ser0ed a rital !nction. The earthen ,yra-id -ay ha0e ser0ed as a locs o!
transcendence, a ,lat!or- !ro- "hich wu "old ha0e been able to s,iritally ascend to
the hea0ens and descend back do"n to earth (Tong 2%%2=&#*. 'n this "ay, the rond and
sHare strctres at 1ocality 2, and ,erha,s at other localities in the Niheliang co-,le>,
-ay ha0e been the ,hysical locations !ro- "hich wu "old ha0e -ade the all i-,ortant
connection bet"een the terrestrial and the celestial.
Astronomical Evidence
Data Analysis
As has been arged !or other Neolithic sites, data !ro- Niheliang re0eals
,ossible astrono-ical align-ents bet"een localities "hich -ay be indicati0e o! a
connection bet"een the celestial and the terrestrial landsca,e dring the Hongshan
,eriod. To !rther e>a-ine these ,otential align-ents, distances and angles bet"een
localities -st be deter-ined !ro- latitde, longitde and ele0ation 0ales. 'n 2%%%,
Chris Rock sed a handheld global ,ositioning syste- (I8S* de0ice to obtain these
0ales !or the -a2ority o! the si>teen localities at Niheliang inclding the Ioddess
Te-,le (1ocality 1a* and the 8lat!or- (1ocality 1b*. Table 1 dis,lays these 0ales "ith
the !ollo"ing e>ce,tions=
'n order to co-,ensate !or se0eral otlying data ,oints, the ele0ation !or the
Ioddess Te-,le (1a* "as obtained by e>a-ining the nine data ,oints collected "ith the
I8S de0ice and a0eraging those "ith errors o! less than 16 -eters. )rther e>ce,tions
inclde the ele0ation 0ales !or 1ocalities ; and 5, as no I8S data "as acHired at these
locations. To a,,ro>i-ate the ele0ations, the old contor -a, and ne"er satellite i-age
o! Niheliang ()igre ;* "ere e>a-ined and co-,ared to the ele0ation 0ales o! the
other localities. 1ocality ; "as deter-ined to ha0e an a,,ro>i-ate ele0ation o! 66%
-eters "ith an error o! a,,ro>i-ately J&% -eters, as it a,,ears to be lo"er than the
8lat!or- (1b* bt si-ilar in ele0ation to the Ioddess Te-,le (1a*. 't is also si-ilar to bt
lo"er in ele0ation than 1ocalities 6 and <. The ele0ation !or 1ocality 5 "as
a,,ro>i-ated as being higher than 1ocalities 11, 12 and 1& since it is in the northeastern
-ost ,art o! the 0alley and becase ele0ation decreases to the "est. Also, 1ocality 5
a,,ears to be si-ilar to 1ocality 2 in relation to the 0alley as "ell as ele0ation. Ths its
ele0ation is a,,ro>i-ated as 6#< J2% -eters. To obtain ele0ation as "ell as latitde and
longitde 0ales !or 1ocality 1$ ("hich "ere absent !ro- the data collected by Rock*,
-easre-ents -ade by Hng2en Ni and Bang2in 8ak at the sa-e ti-e as Rock bt sing
a ne"er I8S nit "ere e>a-ined. Ni and 8ak acHired t"o 0ales !or 1ocality 1$ that
"hen a0eraged together reslted in coordinates o! N#1K 1;.;<, E115 K &%.&# and an
ele0ation o! 615J16 -eters. .ata !or 1ocality 1# "as absent !ro- RockCs I8S readings
as "ell as those o! Ni and 8ak and "as there!ore esti-ated !ro- the satellite -a, and
the data !ro- nearby 1ocality 1$. The latitde (N#1K1;.5<*, longitde (E115K25.5<* and
ele0ation (616J2$ -eters* !or 1ocality 1# "ere a,,ro>i-ated in this "ay.
The ne>t ste,s in deter-ining ,ossible astrono-ical align-ents are to deter-ine
the di!!erences in ele0ation bet"een the localities and distances bet"een localities. By
calclating the distances bet"een the localities, a triangle can be !or-ed bet"een t"o
s,eci!ic localities sch that the base o! the triangle is the distance bet"een the localities
and the height o! the triangle is the relati0e ele0ation bet"een the localities. The !irst
ste, in calclating the distances bet"een localities "as to con0ert the latitde and
longitde 0ales into their deci-al !or- by di0iding the -intes o! latitde or longitde
by 6% and adding the- to the degree 0ale. The 0ales "ere then con0erted to degrees
by di0iding the deci-al latitde or longitde by the ratio o! 1;% degrees !or e0ery ,i
radians. Ho"e0er, in order to accont !or the cr0atre o! the Earth, "e -st a,,ly the
Ha0ersine A,,ro>i-ation to these 0ales=
dlon L lon2 3 lon1
dlat L lat2 3 lat1
a L (sin(dlatM2**N2 O cos(lat1* P cos(lat2* P sin(dlonM2**N2
d L RP 2 P atan2(sHrt(13a*, sHrt(a**
)irst, the deci-al radian 0ales !or latitde and longitde "ere sed to deter-ine
the di!!erence in latitde (dlat* and longitde (dlon* bet"een localities. Second, these
dlat and dlon 0ales "ere sed to sol0e !or the 0ariable 9a: sing the !or-la abo0e.
)inally, these reslting 9a: 0ales "ere sed to sol0e !or the 0ariable 9d: sing the
second !or-la in the Ha0ersine a,,ro>i-ation in "hich R is the radis o! the Earth
(6,&6<,%%% -eters*. The corrected distance (d* and ele0ation can then be sed as the base
and height, res,ecti0ely, o! the a!ore-entioned triangle in order to deter-ine the a/i-th
angles bet"een the localities by a,,lying the !or-la= a/i-th L atan2 (dlat, dlon*. The
reslting a/i-th angles "ere con0erted into degrees and sbtracted !ro- ninety so that
/ero degrees corres,onds to north rather than the >3a>is in a Cartesian ,lane.
To deter-ine the declination angles sed to 0eri!y astrono-ical align-ents, both
the a/i-th and altitde angles are needed. ?st as the a/i-th angles "ere calclated
abo0e, the ne>t set o! co-,tations in0ol0ed !inding altitde angles. The altitde angles
bet"een localities (Table 2* "ere deter-ined by calclating the arctangent o! the
di!!erence in ele0ation and the distance bet"een the localities. The angles "ere then
-lti,lied by the con0ersion !actor o! $<.& degrees ,er radian, gi0ing the angles in
The !inal calclations ,er!or-ed "ere to deter-ine the sight lines corres,onding
to declination angles in the sky. The declination angles "ere deter-ined sing the
!or-la= sin(.EC*L sin(1AT*sin(A1T*Ocos(1AT*cos(A1T*cos(AE*, in "hich 1AT
corres,onds to the deci-al latitde o! each locality, A1T corres,onds to the altitde
angles and AE corres,onds to the a/i-th angles. Becase this !or-la gi0es the sine o!
the declination angles, the arcsine o! the 0ales "as then calclated to obtain the
declination angles. The reslts "ere then -lti,lied by $<.& so that the !inal angles "ere
gi0en in degrees. Table & dis,lays the reslting declination sight line angles.
To deter-ine ,ossible astrono-ical align-ents bet"een localities, the declination
angles "ere ins,ected !or angles that corres,ond to signi!icant ,oints in the orbits o! the
sn and -oon becase o! their ,ro-inence in the sky as "ell as their se!lness in ti-e
kee,ing. Signi!icant solar angles occr "hen the sn is at its !arthest ,oint north (O2&.$K*
or soth (32&.$K*, corres,onding to the s--er and "inter solstices, and "hen the sn is
at the -id,oint o! its -otion (%K*, occrring at the s,ring and at-n eHino>es.
Becase the -oonCs -otion 0aries !ro- the snCs, signi!icant lnar angles are those !i0e
degrees to either side o! the a!ore-entioned solar angles= 2;.$K, 1;.$K, $K, 3$K, 31;.$K and
32;.$K. To accont !or the error "ithin the calclations and 0ariations in 0ie"ing
locations de to the si/e o! the localities, declination angles "ithin J1.$ degrees o! the
actal solar or lnar angles "ere considered !or align-ents. Table # highlights the
signi!icant angles considered !or !rther analysis.
4! the interesting angles, one set occrs bet"een 1ocality 1& and 1ocalities ;, 5
and 1%. The angles bet"een 1ocality 1& and 1ocalities ; and 5 are "ithin or range o!
lnar align-ent angles, "ith 1ocality ; ha0ing an angle o! 315.6&K and 1ocality 5 ha0ing
an angle o! 32;.$&K. Besides yielding ,ossible lnar align-ents, these angles are also
,otentially signi!icant becase o! the ,ro-inence o! 1ocality 1& "hich is an arti!icial hill
characteri/ed as an earthen 9,yra-id.: 1ocalities ; and 5 are also considered likely !or
align-ent becase althogh "e do not ha0e -easred 0ales !or their ele0ations, "e
kno" !ro- 0isiting the site that they are sitated on hills that are 0isible !or- 1ocality 1&.
1ocality 1& also !or-s a ,otentially signi!icant solar angle o! 32#.<&K "ith 1ocality 1%.
This align-ent see-s ,lasible becase 1ocality 1% is centrally located, is characteri/ed
by a high concentration o! cera-ic debris and cold ha0e been seen !ro- 1ocality 1&.
Additionally, 1ocality 1% bisects 1ocalities ; and 5 sggesting a ,ossible tri,le
1ocality 1& also !or-s a lnar angle o! 315.%6K "ith 1ocality 2. 'n addition to the
a!ore-entioned ,ro-inence o! 1ocality 1&, this align-ent is also considered o! interest
becase 1ocality 2 contains a central sHare to-b "hose inhabitants -ay ha0e been
connected to wuism. Ths, the archaeological disco0eries at 1ocality 2 as "ell as its
,osition directly soth o! the Ioddess Te-,le sggest that it -ay ha0e astrono-ical
Another set o! ,otentially signi!icant lnar angles are those bet"een the 8lat!or-
(1b* and 1ocalities < (1;.52K* and ; (3$.;1K* "hich are both sitated ato, a high hill. The
8lat!or- also ,rodces a lnar angle o! 32;.2%K "ith 1ocality 1% "hich, as ,re0iosly
stated, is not 0ery ,ro-inent bt is near the center o! the 0alley and has a large a-ont o!
cera-ic debris.
)rther declination angles o! interest inclde those bet"een 1ocality 16 and
1ocalities < and 5. 1ocality < !or-s a solar angle o! 32&.#;K "ith 1ocality 16, and
1ocality 5 a ,ossible lnar angle o! 32%.6#K. 1ocality 16 is considered ,otentially
signi!icant becase o! the strctral re-ains and 2ade arti!acts e>ca0ated there and
becase it a!!ords a 0ie" o! the entire site !ro- the "estern-ost ,oint in the region.
1ocalities < and 5 a!!ord si-ilar ,anora-ic 0ie"s !ro- the northern-ost and eastern-ost
,arts o! the Niheliang co-,le>, res,ecti0ely.
)inally, 1ocality 6 creates a lnar angle o! 36.21K "ith 1ocality ;. This align-ent
-ay be signi!icant becase o! the t"o 1ocalitiesC close ,ro>i-ity to the Ioddess Te-,le
(1a* and the 8lat!or- area (1b*, as "ell as nearby 1ocalities < and 5. The ,osition o!
1ocality 6 ato, a hill also ,oints to"ards ,ossible astrono-ical signi!icance.
The archaeological e0idence at Niheliang -akes a strong arg-ent !or wuism in
Hongshan China. )irst, -any o! the 2ade sha,es in brials sggest that thay -ight ha0e
been sy-bols o! the wu. Second, the disco0ery o! anthro,o-or,hic statary and large
n-bers o! botto-less 2ars i-,ly that rital acti0ity connected "ith wuism "as taking
,lace at Niheliang, and "as ,articlarly connected "ith the elite. )inally, the e>istence
o! a ya3sha,ed te-,le, hillto, to-bs and rond and sHare strctres sggest that wu
"ere acti0ely in0ol0ed in connecting hea0en and earth at the site. There!ore, the natre
o! the archaeological e0idence arges that the societal leaders "ere wu and sed their
in!lence "ith the 8o"ers to create a celestial3terrestrial connection at Niheliang.
)ro- the calclations and analysis o! the localities at Niheliang, declination
angles corres,onding to both signi!icant solar and lnar angles as "ell as ,ossessing
so-e distingishing !actor abot their location or contents "ere analy/ed to highlight
,ro-ising align-ents bet"een the hea0ens and the terrestrial landsca,e. 4! the 1&6
,ossible angles stdied a-ong localities at Niheliang, a striking n-ber o! lnar rather
than solar align-ent angles e-erged, and -any o! the- took the arti!icial hill as their
backsight. Ass-ing the lnar orbit e0oltion is s-all since Hongshan ti-es, an
integrati0e inter,retation o! the Niheliang site ,lan relates it to the stdy o! lnar -otion
3 stillstand to stillstand 3 and the cltral de0elo,-ent o! ability to ,redict ecli,ses based
there,on. This is one i-,lication o! this ,reli-inary astrono-ical align-ent sr0ey at
This ,a,er began as an assign-ent in an Honors class in Archaeoastrono-y at the
Dni0ersity o! .en0er in 7inter Qarter 2%%#. 7e thank all o! the stdents "ho
contribted to the ,ro2ect. 7ork at Niheliang has been !nded by grants to Sarah M.
Nelson and Io .ashn by the 7enner3Iren )ondation !or Anthro,ological Research
and to Sarah M. Nelson by the National Ieogra,hic Society )nd !or E>,loration.
8artial s,,ort !or the 8hysics and Astrono-y ,artici,ation herein "as ,ro0ided by the
beHest o! 7illia- Hershel 7o-ble to the Dni0ersity o! .en0er.
A11AN, S. 1551. The Shape o the Turtle! "yth# Art# and $osmos in %arly $hina.
Albany, NB= State Dni0ersity o! Ne" Bork 8ress.
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$hina' Ca-bridge, MA= Har0ard Dni0ersity 8ress.
R 155#. Rital and 8o"er. 'n R. E. Mro"chick (ed.*, $radles o $i(ili)ation! $hina= 63
65. Nor-an, 4@= Dni0ersity o! 4klaho-a 8ress.
CH'1.S3?4HNS4N, E. 15;;. .ragons, Masks, A>es and Blades !ro- )or Ne"ly
.oc-ented ?ade38rodcing Cltres o! Ancient China. *rientations (A,ril*= &%3
R1551. ?ades o! the Hongshan Cltre= The .ragon and )ertility Clt 7orshi,. Arts
Asiatique #6= ;235$.
CH'NI, ?. 155<. "ysticism and +ingship in $hina! The ,eart o $hinese Wisdom.
Ca-bridge= Ca-bridge Dni0ersity 8ress.
CD11EN, C. 1556. Astronomy and "athematics in Ancient $hina! The Zhou -i suan .ing.
Ca-bridge= Ca-bridge Dni0ersity 8ress.
.E+1ET, E. 2%%1. Rock Art and the Material Cltre o! Siberia and Central Asian
Sha-anis-. 'n N. 8rice (ed.*, The Archaeology o Shamanism= #&3$$. 1ondon=
)A1@ENHADSEN, 1. 155$. Re!lections on the 8olitical Role o! S,irit Medi-s in Early
China= The 7 4!!icials in the Eho 1i. %arly $hina 2%= 2<53&%%.
)ANI, .. and B. 1'D 15;#. E>ca0ation o! ?ades !ro- To-bs o! the Hongshan Cltre at
Htogo, )>in Conty, 1iaoning 8ro0ince. Wenwu 15;#(6*= 136.
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o /ortheast $hina= 2136#. 1ondon= Rotledge.
R155<. Dnderstanding the Rital Brials o! the Hongshan Cltre throgh ?ade. 'n R.
E. Scott (ed.*, $hinese Jades. 1ondon= 8erci0al .a0id )ondation.
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Age $hina. Berkeley, CA= Dni0ersity o! Cali!ornia 8ress.
R2%%%. The Ancestral Landscape! Time# Space and $ommunity in Late Shang $hina'
Berkeley, CA= 'nstitte o! East Asian Stdies.
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8blications, 'nc.
1', S. 2%%&. .e0elo,-ent o! Social Co-,le>ity in the 1iao>i Area, Northeast China.
.issertation, 1a Trobe Dni0ersity, Bndoora, +ictoria, Astralia.
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Regarding the Hongshan Cltre. %arly $hina 2%=1316.
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Claessen and ?. I. 4osten (eds.*, Ideology and the 0ormation o %arly States=
1$&3165. 1eiden= Brill.
R2%%2. 8er!or-ing 8o"er in Early China= E>a-,les !ro- the Shang .ynasty and the
Hongshan Cltre. 'n M. 4C.ono0an (ed.*, The Dynamics o Power= 1$1316<.
Carbondale, '1= Center !or Archaeological 'n0estigations, Sothern 'llinois
8A@, B., S.M. NE1S4N and H. N'D 2%%&. 1eadershi, in the Hongshan Cltre. 8a,er
deli0ered at the annal -eeting o! the Society !or A-erican Archaeology,
8AN@EN'ER, .. 7. 155$. Cos-o38olitical Backgrond o! Hea0enCs Mandate. %arly $hina
2%= 12131<6.
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!igure Captions
Niheliang )igre 1.2,g
)igre 1. Ma, o! Northeast China sho"ing the
distribtion o! Hongshan sites throghot the
region. Niheliang is circled.
Niheliang )igre 2.2,g
)igre 2. Clay 9-ask: "ith inset 2ade eyes !ro-
the Ioddess Te-,le. The ronded !acial !eatres
sggest it is a re,resentation o! a !e-ale.
Niheliang )igre &.2,g
)igre &. Ma, o! Niheliang and its n-bered
Niheliang )igre #.2,g
)igre #. Ring, clod and trtle3sha,ed 2ades
!ro- the to-b at 1ocality $.
Niheliang )igre $.2,g
)igre $. ?ade bird !ond nder the skll o! an
indi0idal bried at 1ocality 16
Niheliang )igre 6.2,g
)igre 6. 4ne o! the -any black3on3red ,ottery
cylinders e>ca0ated at 1ocality 2 and other to-bs
throghot Niheliang.
Niheliang )igre <.2,g
)igre <. The Ioddess Te-,le (1ocality 1* as it
a,,eared a!ter ,reli-inary e>ca0ation.
Niheliang )igre ;.2,g
)igre ;. Satellite i-age o! Niheliang
s,eri-,osed o0er a contor -a, o! the site.
Table 1. 1atitde, longitde and ele0ation 0ales !or Niheliang !ro- the 2%%% I8S
Locality Latitude Longitude Elevation E#E $%&
'a N #1K15.<5; E115K&%.;&# 661 1#
'" N #1K15.;$< E115K&%.;&# 6<6 12
( N #1K15.&1% E115K&%.<;1 6## 11
) N #1K15.21$ E115K&%.;21 6#; 12
* N #1K15.%&5 E115K&%.#<; 62; 1&
+ N #1K15.%%$ E115K&%.2$< 6&5 12
, N #1K15.5#% E115K&%.&$5 6;< 1$
- N #1K2%.%;; E115K&%.&;$ 65; 1&
. N #1K15.<#< E115K&1.$6< 66% &%
/ N #1K2%.15< E115K&1.%;# 6#< 2%
'0 N #1K15.%&; E115K25.;5; 61% 1#
'' N #1K1;.5&5 E115K25.26< 6%# 1<
'( N #1K1;.<62 E115K25.1;< 61$ 1#
') N #1K1;.&;# E115K2;.561 $<5 1$
'* N #1K1;.5< E115K25.5< 616 2$
'+ N #1K1;.;< E115K&%.&# 615 16
', N #1K1;.$#1 E115K2;.%<; $65 1&
Table 2. Altitde angles Fdegrees abo0e hori/ontalG bet"een localities. Entries in the ,,er hal! o! this and the !ollo"ing tables are
blank becase they are redndant "ith the lo"er set o! 0ales.
Locality 'a '" ( ) * + , - . / '0 '' '( ') '* '+ ',
'a %
'" 3<.;16 %
( 1.%<# 1.;%# %
) %.6;5< 1.&#5 31.2#2 %
* 1.26;# 1.<2$ 1.&5; 1.5;2# %
+ %.<$&1 1.15< %.&11 %.$;;5 32.%%; %
, 32.%5# 3%.525 31.;;6 31.$%1 32.%1$ 31.$;2 %
- 32.$<2 31.66$ 32.%%$ 31.6$5 32.%$5 31.6<; 32.2; %
. %.%$6 %.;;2 3%.6<# 3%.#;1 3%.51$ 3%.$2< %.5%1 1.2&6 %
/ %.5;21 2.&%5 3%.1%1 %.%&%5 3%.#<2 3%.1;# 2.%$$ 2.5#1 %.656 %
'0 1.$2&< 1.;51 1.#6< 1.6#2; 1.2<;2 &.255 2.#6# 2.##< 1.%<# %.<;& %
'' 1.21%1 1.#52 1.%&$ 1.1&#5 %.;11# 1.#$ 1.5;& 2.%#& %.5%; %.<1< %.&;&# %
'( %.;;15 1.1#2 %.6;1 %.<;%# %.&5;; %.;;# 1.$1# 1.6%2 %.6;2 %.#5 3%.2$< 31.<5 %
') 1.2<16 1.#<& 1.21; 1.&1& 1.1$&& 1.6%< 1.<<5 1.;25 1.%$ %.;<1 %.55;1 1.2$< 2.61#2 %
'* 1.&2&1 1.6;; 1.2#2 1.##6 %.5$<# &.2$$ 2.16< 2.1;$ %.5$2 %.6#6 32.1&6 3%.6%5 3%.%## 31.%5 %
'+ 1.255; 1.6<2 1.#%# 1.<5$# 1.#%#1 #.1$# 1.56$ 2.%%$ %.55< %.6%2 3%.<#; 3%.#5; 3%.12& 3%.56 3%.2; %
', 1.1<$1 1.&#5 1.%65 1.12<# %.5<$5 1.2<& 1.6$ 1.<1; %.5<6 %.;62 %.;<2 %.5; 1.##2; %.&56 %.;$; %.<<; %
Table &. Co-,ted terrestrial a/i-ths Fin degreesG obser0able along sight lines bet"een localities.
Locality 'a '" ( ) * + , - . / '0 '' '( ') '* '+ ',
'a %
'" #%.;< %
( 3&.5# 32.5$5 %
) 3%.$%# %.%15 16.%5 %
* 31<.<1 316.2# 3&2.5& 3#%.1< %
+ 32$.6< 32#.%& 3#%.21 3##.15 3#5.51 %
, 3#;.%1 3#;.6& 326.%< 32#.;; 36.5<5 &.62& %
- 3#1.25 3#&.&; 321.&2 32%.<< 3$.16# &.5## $.5#< %
$ #;.;# #%.##
5 &;.2$ #%.&$ #;.<6 #<.&< %
; 2;.11 1&.5;
; 2$.22 #6.5; $%.;1 3&2.; %
'0 3&#.#& 3&2.5 3##.#; 3#$.5& 3#<.#1 3#$.1& 31;.2 316.< 3#2.; 3&1.;; %
'' 3#%.1& 3&5.1 3#$.;$ 3#6.$; 3#<.66 3#<.1 3&2 3&% 3##.& 3&<.$& 3#<.$& %
'( 3&;.<2 3&<.<$ 3##.62 3#$.62 3#6.;< 3#6.2& 3&%.; 325 3#&.& 3&6.# 3##.6; 315.26 %
') 3&$.<; 3&#.5; 3#%.5# 3#2.1 3#2.$# 3#1.15 32;.; 32<.# 3#%.; 3&#.1& 3&<.1; 32%.&< 32%.<5 %
'* 3&1.; 3&%.25 3#2.<1 3##.;2 3#<.1$ 3##.5; 31#.< 31&.< 3#1.6 325.;& &1.#%$ #;.%1
# &5.$6 %
'+ 315.<$ 31;.#< 3&1.%2 3&6.11 32<.&1 26.11 %.$&& 3%.26 3&6.; 321.12 #&.5%1 #;.%6 #;.2; ##.21 #6.21 %
', 3#2.%# 3#1.#6 3#$.2& 3#$.<$ 3#6.&5 3#6.%# 3&;.# 3&<.1 3##.& 3#%.&; 3#$.6 3##.$ 3#6.%& 3#<.& 3#6.& 3#<.2 %
Table #. Co-,ted celestial declinations Fin degreesG obser0able along sight lines bet"een localities. 8otentially signi!icant lnar and
solar sight lines ha0e been indicated in bold!ace and italics, res,ecti0ely, at declinations o! %, J$, J1;.$, J2&.$ and J2;.$, "ithin J1.$
Locality 'a '" ( ) * + , - . / '0 '' '( ') '* '+ ',
'a %
'" #%.;< %
( 3#<.2# 3#6.$5 %
) 3#<.5; 3#<.&2 3##.5# %
* 3#1.<% 3#1.5$ 1(.2/. 1'.2,+ %
+ 3&6.<< 3&<.## 321.5; 31#.<5 3<.;5 %
, 11.%% 6.;1 &<.%1 &;.%2 #6.1& #6.<& %
- ((2'. '.2/( #%.2& #%.<# #6.&; #6.$< #$.#; %
. 32.5$ 1+2.' 2%.5& 2$.$% ()2+0 21.&$ 1,2(' 311.1; %
/ #%.&< &5.1# #$.2% #6.$# #1.&% &<.5$ 1$.5& ;.$5 &1.&& %
'0 32<.11 1(.2(0 311.<; 3<.%# 02-- ,2'( 3&5.<; 3#%.<# 316.&# 3&1.%6 %
'' 32%.&1 321.2# 35.6% 36.<5 3&.%1 31.51 1(.2/- 3&%.56 31&.;% 1(*2-/ 1,2*) %
'( 1((2/* 1()2-* 31&.6< 311.%$ 3;.;% 3;.5; 3&%.55 3&2.$5 316.22 326.$; 31$.5$ 3##.;1 %
') 32$.56 326.$6 1'/20, 316.5& 316.$2 1'-2.' 3&2.$# 3&&.<1 1'/2,) 1(.2+) 1(*2-) 3#%.%2 3&<.;< %
'* 3&%.25 3&1.22 316.%2 311.%2 1+2'- 3&.%6 3#2.2% 3#2.<& 1'.2+( 3&&.2< 3&2.6; 3'45 11.%5 21.&; %
'+ 3#%.&; 3#%.<% 3&%.5# 264'74 3&#.#& 3&6.1; 3#6.<1 3#6.6# 32$.16 3#%.#1 31$.55 3&.%5 &.5# 1&.;% 311.#5 %
', 31<.&# 1'-2/* 311.1# 35.$< 3;.1& 3;.1$ 321.5& 1()2*. 31&.$# 32%.6# 31%.;2 31&.1& 3<.#; <.;2 3;.55 1+2,/ %