Providing intellectual forces for building modern Chinese civilization

Source:Chinese Social Sciences Today 2023-06-20

On the afternoon of June 2, General Secretary Xi Jinping visited the Chinese Archaeological Museum’s exhibitions on “Origins of Chinese Civilization ” and “Dwell in This, the Center of the Land,” participated in a meeting on cultural inheritance and development, and delivered an important speech. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that understanding the long history of Chinese civilization and appreciating the profoundness of Chinese culture is inseparable from archaeology. As chairman of the Chinese Archaeological Society for 10 years and a seasoned archaeologist with over 40 years of experiences in excavation and research, I am deeply moved.

I recall that on May 27, 2022, during the 39th group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, I introduced the main achievements of a project to trace the origins of Chinese civilization. The comprehensive, 20-year multidisciplinary research project showcases the journey of Chinese civilization from its origins, formation, early development, and gradual progression to the present day. Through numerous archaeological discoveries and interdisciplinary research, it presents evidence of the nation’s civilizational history spanning more than 5,000 years. 

Epochal relevance

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s emphasis on archaeological research not only focuses on the past, but also on the present and future. He recognizes the contemporary value of archaeological work and the study of the origins of civilization. He believes that these efforts can help the general public, especially young people, to better understand and identify with Chinese civilization, provide wisdom and experience for the building of a modern Chinese civilization, and provide intellectual impetus for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Studying history is to understand today’s China and its future. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that “as prominent features of Chinese civilization, its consistency determines on a fundamental level that the Chinese people must follow their own path.” Understanding the continuity of Chinese civilization can fundamentally clarify the inevitability of the Chinese nation’s own path, and clarifying the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics is theonly way for the Chinese nation to grow prosperous and become strong. If we don’t know how our civilization came about, how can we clarify the direction of future development? 

International communication

Previously, there was a tendency in the archaeological community to prioritize excavation over research, and to prioritize description over interpretation, resulting in a large number of archaeological discoveries in China being mostly confined to the archaeological community and not shared with society at large.

While various media outlets have helped increase the public awareness of archaeological achievements, some reports still focus solely on the discoveries themselves, without adequately interpreting and promoting their historical significance, cultural value, and relevance to our current lives. To interpret archaeological materials well, relying solely on archaeology is not enough. It is necessary to promote the organic integration of archaeology and natural sciences, as demonstrated by the origin-tracing project, and more importantly, to actively integrate with other disciplines of humanities and social sciences. Only in this way can we achieve complementary advantages, and more in-depth, comprehensive, and systematic interpretations of Chinese civilization and information of fine traditional culture contained in the rich archaeological materials, clearly explain the development process of Chinese civilization, provide profound cultural heritage for the building of a modern Chinese civilization, and strengthen cultural confidence. 

Archaeologists and scholars studying civilization have another important mission of promoting the achievements of the evidence-based research on the history of more than 5,000-year Chinese civilization, its origins, formation, and early development, and the Chinese rubrics of identifying to the world the hallmarks to enter a civilized society. This will allow the international academic community to understand China.

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s significant speech on June 2 will serve as an epoch-making milestone, providing guidance for the development of a leading socialist country in culture and the building of a modern Chinese civilization. 


Wang Wei is a CASS Member.

Editor:Yu Hui

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