The History of the Daxi Culture in China

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The Daxi culture was a Chinese Neolithic culture that emerged in the Yangzi River Valley between 4500 – 3300 BCE. It is one of the most important Neolithic cultures in the area as it was separate and distinctive from other cultures at the same time and place.

The most well-known Daxi site is Chengtoushan, which is located on the edge of Dongting Lake in Hunan province. It has been suggested by scholars the Daxi culture was the descendant of the Zaoshi Culture, which flourished between 6000 – 5200 BCE (Zhimin, p.756). During excavations in the 1900’s, a walled town was unearthed, stretching over 20 acres. Over three separate periods modifications were made to the wall. Whether this was due to fighting, one cannot say at this time.

Over 700 burials were unearthed within the walled area. The majority of these burials were poor, but there were several that were richly endowed with grave goods. One elite person was buried with 50 pottery vessels and wore two beautiful jade pendants. What was even more interesting was the fact that 4 individuals were interred in crouched positions in the corners of the tomb (Higham, p.246).

The Daxi culture was contemporary with the Yangshao culture, and there are certain similarities in pottery forms and decorations, indicating a cultural interaction with each other.

The settlements chosen were typically wetlands. Multi-roomed, rectangular houses were constructed of clay. These were then strengthened with reeds, bamboo and rice husk bonding. The swampy terrain would have been chosen for the establishment of rice fields. Archaeological evidence has shown that agricultural intensification through ploughing was performed, as well as the maintaining of domestic cattle and pigs. However, fishing and hunting still occurred despite this.

The Daxi culture has fascinated scholars for years, due to its distinct culture and its importance to Neolithic Chinese history. Whilst not much is known at this time, continual archaeological research will continue to shed light on this fascinating culture.


Higham, Charles (20050 The Human Past – East Asian Agriculture and Its Impact, Thames & Hudson, London.

Pearson, Richard (1981) Social Complexity in Chinese Coastal Neolithic Sites, Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Thorp, Robert L. (1983) Origins of Chinese Architectural Style: The Earliest Plans and Building Types, Archives of Asian Art, University of Hawai’i Press for the Asia Society.

Zhimin, An (1988) archaeological Research on Neolithic China, Current Anthropology, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.


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