Ground stone tools are characteristic of the Neolithic period in China. The earliest recorded reference to them occurred in the Yuejueshu (nd), which noted: 'a weapon made from jade was used during the Huangdi Period for felling trees to build the palace, and for digging'. Wei Juxian used the term 'weapon' to describe a ground stone tool probably used as a hoe for agricultural purposes. Consequently, he believed that the Huangdi Period was part of the Chinese Neolithic that occurred before the Han Dynasty (Wei Juxian 1988). The 'Axe of thunder's father' has been recorded in every dynasty since the Han Dynasty. At the time, the stone tools were regarded as treasure, not as objects for serious research.
From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, foreign explorers undertook several archaeological surveys in China, particularly those which concerned microlithic implements and ground stone tools, for example axes and chisels. Typical accounts from this period were published by Giglioli (1898), Laufer (1912), Andersson (1920) and Inber (1923). The stone implements recorded in the literature around this time had been collected from north-eastern China, Xinjiang, Heibei, Shanxi, Sichuang and Yunnan Provinces (Yan Wenming 1989a). These studies clearly established in the western world the existence of a Neolithic period in China. Therefore, it is reasonable to claim that modern Chinese archaeology first recognised the Neolithic period in China through the discovery of stone implements.
After the 1920s, the excavation of Neolithic sites in China became more popular, especially sites dated to the Late Neolithic. Although this led to the discovery of new cultures in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, the randomness of these excavations made it difficult for archaeologists to construct a comprehensive picture of stone tools as markers in the Chinese Neolithic landscape. Lin Huixiang (1932) and Li Ji (1943) addressed this problem through their research, using information from stone implement records of the time, which dealt with the manufacture and typology of stone implements from across China.
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Last updated: Wed Jul 29 2009