This year marks the 110th anniversary of the National Museum of China (NMC), and the museum has engaged in archaeological endeavors for more than a century. In 1921, the excavation of the ancient city of Julu in Hebei Province, which coincided with the excavation of the Yangshao site, marked the beginning of NMC archaeology. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, particularly following the start of the reform and opening-up of the late 1970s, the NMC’s archaeological work thrived with remarkable progress. Focusing on field archaeology at first, the museum later set up special institutes and stepped into other archaeological sub-sectors such as underwater archaeology, remote sensing and aerial photography, becoming a trailblazer in the field in China. Following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, socialism with Chinese characteristics entered a new era, and the NMC rearranged its work and optimized its structure. The NMC Archaeological Institute was set up on the basis of the former Archaeological Department, with a clear mission to serve China’s development landscape. Based on consolidating its strength of archaeological work, the institute has gradually shifted its work to the northwestern region and border areas with large ethnic minority populations. The institute has been committed to uncovering the origins of Chinese civilization and building the Belt and Road Initiative, actively gathering evidence reflecting the cultural exchanges and mutual learning between East and West and the emergence and evolution of the ancient Silk Road.

Over the past century, the NMC has kept its finger on the pulse of the times, courageously repositioning itself and forging ahead with outstanding results. Its initial endeavors in the field of archaeological excavation witnessed it bravely shouldering the responsibility to rescue cultural relics amid the social turmoil of the early 20th century. The excavations and investigations carried out in the subsequent decades served China’s academic and national development. From the 1980s, the museum led archaeological fieldwork at the sites of Dongguan and Nanguan ancient city of the Shang Dynasty (Yuanqu County, Shanxi Province), Bancun (Mianchi County, Henan Province), Kongwangshan (Lianyungang City, Jiangsu Province), Zhoujiazhuang and Xiwubi (Jiangxian County, Shanxi Province), Hanjing (Sihong County, Jiangsu), Wushan (Baoji City, Shaanxi Province) and Xinglong (Kangbao County, Hebei Province). The museum also carried out underwater archaeological work, such as investigating the Nanhai No. 1 Shipwreck site, excavating the Wanjiao No. 1 Shipwreck and the Dalian Island No. 1 Shipwreck off the coast of Pingtan County, Fujian Province as well as conducting a general survey of coastal underwater heritage nationwide. In addition, the NMC conducted an aerial archaeological survey at the Han to Wei Dynasty ancient city site in Luoyang, Henan Province and the ancient city site in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia. In response to major national strategies, the NMC implemented the preservation plan of Three Gorges cultural relics and participated in investigations and excavations in the Xiong’an New Area. With such efforts on land, at sea and beyond, the NMC sought to uncover physical evidence of the splendor of Chinese history and culture and to explore the development of Chinese civilization. In recent years, the institute has been active at the sites of Wushituer and Yuzigan (Xinjiang), resulting in new material to help us better understand the pluralistic and integrated patterns, cultural exchanges and mutual learning of Chinese civilization. 

President Xi Jinping once stressed that archaeological work is essential for demonstrating and building the history of the Chinese nation and the treasures of Chinese civilization. We must attach greater importance to archaeological research to provide strong support for promoting fine traditional culture and strengthening people’s confidence in Chinese culture. For generation after generation, NMC archaeologists have worked hard and formed an academic tradition of pioneering and pushing ahead with a realistic and pragmatic approach. The exhibition, “Profound Accumulation, Far-reaching Influence: Archaeological Achievements of the National Museum of China,” shows a range of significant NMC achievements in archaeological work over the past century and shares them with the public so that archaeological achievements can benefit the people and serve the society. We hope the exhibition tells China’s incredible and time-honored story. On a new journey toward building a modern socialist China, the NMC archaeologists are guided by President Xi’s instructions, have a stronger sense of historical responsibility, carry forward the fine traditions of rigorous pragmatism, hard work and dedication, continue to explore the unknown and reveal our origins. We will strive to develop archaeology with Chinese features, style and ethos to better showcase the splendor of Chinese civilization, as well as carry forward the fine traditional Chinese culture, thus making new and greater contributions to the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.