Liangzhu Archaeological Site
The Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City show the accomplishments of the urban civilization in the Yangtze River Basin from the late 4rd and 3rd millennium BC.
The city was the centre of power and belief of the Liangzhu culture, an early regional state. The culture possessed advanced agriculture, including irrigation, paddy rice cultivation and aquaculture.
Map of Liangzhu Archaeological SiteLoad map
As a Westerner, China tends to be a footnote in the school curriculum, even more so Chinese prehistory. Prehistory in my school meant Egypt and Mesopotamia, ... but very little is said and written about China. I probably learnt more on Chinese history in Kung Fu movies than in school.
So, it was a welcome stop to visit a prehistoric site in China, Liangzhu. To this day, the greater Yangtze River Delta to which Liangzhu belongs is a huge economic and population center. And it was so already 5000 years ago as evidenced by the immense size of the archeological site. The Chinese have done a good job of presenting the site with plenty sign posts (some in English) and small expositions scattered around the site. Most memorable parts to me were the palace hill, the pillars, and the cemetery.
Liangzhu (the modern town) is a suburb of Hangzhou and you can get there by metro. However, from the subway station it's another 8km to the actual site, so you need to catch a bus. The bus station is well signposted in the metro station (Southern exit, I think Exit D). When I arrived, there was only one bus waiting and it was the right one. topchinatravel.com lists provides a comprehensive list of all bus lines that go to the site.
The bus will first pass the Liangzhu Museum (not part of the site). You have to stay on the bus till you see the big Unesco logo. Note: Don't trust google maps. It had me misplaced by 500m and only by looking out of the bus window did I get the right exit.
On my return, I jumped another bus. However, the bus did not go to the metro station. I managed to get back to Hangzhou, but going back to the metro station would have been easier and faster.
Best innovation on park facilities was the entry ticket that looked like a passport. Great idea. Would be nice to get stamps for each visited site.
As pointed out by Shandos, the Chinese have made a great effort of making the site accessible. There are facilities scattered in the park and you can catch a shuttle to cover some of the distances. Coming in off season the facilities seemed way too big. It was only me and a single school class. But it seems that the Chinese are planning with a substantial uptick in visitors.
While You Are There
A visit to the West Lake is a must. From Hangzhou you can explore several other sites of the area via bullet train.
Liangzhu is located on the outskirts of Hangzhou, not far from the furthest reaches of the metro system. Initially when we planned our visit we were only aware of the museum, and had simply planned to visit that. But not long before our visit we were made aware of tours of the actual archaeological site, with the option to book online. We weren't sure about paying 80 yuan to see what we thought would be a standard archaeological site with virtually nothing to see, and anyway it probably wanted us to pay using Alipay or something similar that we didn't have, so we skipped booking.
It was a lovely sunny day when we arrived at the Liangzhu Museum. The museum exhibit is excellent and every modern, although only parts of the display have English translation (enough to learn about the Liangzhu culture but not enough to draw out your visit to become overly long). The highlight are the fine jade artefacts. There were also the first of multiple references to "5000 years of Chinese history" - aha, the reason for this site being prioritised by the Chinese!
We still had plenty of the day left, so we figured, let's go visit the closest archaeological site and see what the deal is with visiting, without a booking. On Google Maps, search for "Liangzhu Ancient City Relic Site". But the actual entrance is on the major road G104 to the south. We caught another bus from near the museum, which turned south down to G104 at a point where the road seemed recently closed...
...and the bus dropped us at the entrance to the very new, nicely landscaped "archaeological theme park". I believe the online booking set-up was just a soft opening phase, as there was a ticket office onsite, although it seemed very new, and it took about 3 staff members to register us in the system and sell us our ticket. (Not sure there had been many foreign visitors!) No dusty archaeological park here. It was more a Jurassic Park style park, with electric carts to shuttle us around the large site, stopping at the various stops. You could easily spend all day, stopping at the various sites and completing short walks. We didn't have that much time, so after stopping at the old city gates, we headed for the far side, near the palace area, plus stopped at the tombs, probably the most interesting feature. Don't also miss the small museum exhibit near the tombs, a good substitute if you haven't been to the museum.
There still wasn't that much to see onsite as with many archaeological sites, but the Chinese had done a fine job of turning it into a fancy, nicely landscaped experience. When we visited in late September, the final touches were still being done, with more workers on site than visitors. And both Google Maps and Baidu Maps still show roads criss-crossing the area, that are now blocked off as they are within the park, rather than the park itself.
To get to the museum and park, I recommend using Baidu Maps. We followed the directions to take the metro to the final stop (Liangzhu), then to catch the local buses. There's also not much in the way of food options, although I think some cafes are being opened at the archaeological park. (At the museum there are just some expensive sweets and ice creams in the gift shop.) There are however lockers at both locations (ask at the museum desk if your bag is too big for the lockers).
At the time of writing the Liangzhu sites are gearing up for an inscription attempt. I went to the Liangzhu Museum on the outskirts of Hangzhou a couple of years ago. It can easily reached by bus from the city center areas and the bus is semi-frequent plus very cheap. Now I have to say I did not actually go to any of the archaeological sites with the assumption that they are off-limits, but I don't know for certain. It certainly looks like nothing on the map so I did not want to "waste" my time trekking around in the heat. Either way, unless you are purist you are better off going to the museum for all the insight into the Liangzhu culture and the findings at those dig sites.
Update: I ended up going back to this area a week later and went to an archeological site called Mojiaoshan where you can see some dig sites, rather unimpressed, but it allows you to say you went there. I was correct to assume they left nothing valuable here but some dirty canal covered with a plastic roof.
The museum is big. Really big. You can spend 2-3 hours here depending on the temporary exhibition on offer. In a typical museum fashion everything you see is behind glass panels with descriptions. The best ones I found were the jade artifacts, usually rings or some kind of vases (they called them "cong").
With Hangzhou being a bit of a hotspot of sites I think it is a good addition for another half-day trip.
Update 2: the site is now open for tours, and tours only, and whereas the museum is technically not part of the WHS it does contain more info and artefacts than what you get to see on the tour so I still recommend it over the dirt piles
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