Banpo: A 6,000-Year-Old Chinese Neolithic Village

Banpo Neolithic Village

While en route to see the Terracotta Army outside of Xi’an, my guided tour stopped at a sight I’d never even heard of: the Banpo Neolithic Village. Discovered in 1953, the location contains the remains of several well-organized settlements dating back to 5600-6700 BCE, according to radiocarbon dating. The site is associated with the Yangshao culture, a Neolithic culture that existed along the central Yellow River.

Banpo Neolithic Village

The site itself primarily features the foundations of the former village, which has been encased within a modern external structure, which protects it and also houses other museum exhibits. There were three different kinds of buildings in the original village, which can be distinguished by the shape and size of their foundations—the square you see above was one of the larger structures, for example. The houses with built of mud and wood with thatched roofs.The have a number of models and pictures of what the village might have looked like during its time:

Banpo Neolithic Village

Banpo Neolithic Village

The most impressive thing was probably the defensive moat that surrounded the whole place, which was about 5-6 meters wide and dug entirely by hand. Talk about labor-intensive.

The people of the time also practiced communal burial, with the graves being located outside the moat; several such graves were featured in the museum. You could tell a bit about the people’s lives based on what direction they were facing, etc., since one direction led to heaven and the other… well, wasn’t so promising.

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My favorite thing might have been the kiln that they used to fire their pottery. I don’t think I even would have recognized it as a kiln without the museum guidance:

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This model makes it a bit more obvious:

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Apparently, the site is still being analyzed and there is still much that remains unknown about Banpo and Yangshao culture more generally. I had no idea that any of this existed, so it was a very educational experience for me. It’s probably not worth a special trip to see Banpo Village, but if it gets tacked on to a tour of the Terracotta Warriors, it’s an interesting way to spend an hour.

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