The long-standing and splendid pre-historical culture of Zhejiang is best represented by the Shangshan Site of 10,000 years old, Kuahuqiao Site of about 7,000 to 8,000 years old, the Hemudu Culture of about 6,000 to 7,000 years old, the Majiabang Culture of about 6,000 years old and the Liangzhu Culture of about 4,000 to 5,000 years old. Shangshan Site is the oldest Neolithic relics ever unearthed in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the coastal areas in Southeast China. Artifacts among the cultural relics unearthed at the site of Hemudu in Yuyao City, eastern Zhejiang include well preserved rough rice, wooden components of tenon-and-mortise work, bright colored lacquer bowls and egg-shaped porcelain wind instrument and bone whistle that can still produce melodious tunes. The Liangzhu Culture is known for its developed black pottery and exquisite jade ware. The discovery of the Shangshan Culture, Hemudu Culture and the Liangzhu Culture bears proof that the Yangtze River Valley is also a birthplace of the Chinese nation.
Cultural Relics and Museums
Rich in cultural relics, Zhejiang has five state-level Historically and Culturally Famous Cities, namely, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Quzhou and Linhai. The province boasts 131 cultural relics under state protection, ranking the fifth in the country, including the Pagoda of Six Harmonies, and General Yue Fei's Temple in Hangzhou, Baoguo Monastery and Tianyige Library in Ningbo, the ancient towpath and the Mausoleum of Yu the Great in Shaoxing, the Confucian Temple of South China in Quzhou, and the Feiying Pagoda in Huzhou.
Museums were built earlier in Zhejiang than in most other provinces in China. Antiques preserved in state-owned public museums amount to over 790,000 pieces. One of the earliest museums in China, Zhejiang Provincial Museum, once Zhejiang Provincial West Lake Museum established in 1929, has a collection of over 73,000 pieces of antiques. Now there are 140-plus museums and memorial halls of various kinds throughout the province. Among them, the Zhejiang Provincial Museum houses over 100,000 pieces of cultural relics. Besides, many theme museums like China Silk Museum, China Tea Museum, Hangzhou Southern Song Imperial Kiln Museum, Huqingyutang Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum, Museum of Hemudu Cultural Ruins in Yuyao, and Museum of Liangzhu Culture Ruins in Hangzhou are known in the country for their distinctive features. The province has a fine tradition of book collection, a tradition well known in China since ancient times. Age-old libraries like Tianyige Library in Ningbo, Wenlange Library in Hangzhou, Jiayetang Library in Huzhou and Yuhai Library in Rui'an have been well known for their large collections of historical documents and important role in bringing up talented people and promoting academic research. Tianyi Pavilion Library which was built in 1561 during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of Ming Dynasty is the oldest private library well preserved in China.
A major form of operas in China, the Yue opera came into being in Shengxian County (now Shengzhou City) in the early years of the 20th century. It is characterized with beautiful singing and lyrical plot. In its early stage of development, roles in the opera, both male and female, were all played by actresses. In the 1950s, both male and female singers were advocated to act on the same stage. Since then Yue opera has witnessed a rapid development, and increasingly become one of the most influential local operas in the country. Popular list of plays includes Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (known as Chinese Romeo and Juliet), Dream of the Red Mansion, and Aunt Xianglin. Since China introduced its reform and opening up program in the late 1970s, Zhejiang Xiaobaihua Yue Opera Troupe have created and staged a number of outstanding plays, including Romance of the Western Chamber, Five Daughters Offer Birthday Felicitations, Love between Poet Lu You and His Cousin Tang Wan, Mistake Made Through a Red Silk Braid, and A Library Family.With a fine tradition in the art of dramas, Zhejiang is also the birthplace of the ancient Nan (South) Opera. In addition, there are many other kinds of local theatrical forms such as the Wu opera, Shaoxing opera, Ou opera, Yong opera, Yao opera and Huzhou opera.
Paintings, Libraries and Calligraphy
In Zhejiang, different schools of painting and calligraphy with varied styles and features hold a significant position in the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy. In history, distinguished painters and calligraphers in Zhejiang included Wang Xizhi (321-379 or 303-361), Wu Zhen (1280-1354), Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), and Wu Changshuo (1844-1927). Contemporary and modern times have seen famous painters and calligraphers like Huang Binhong (1865-1955), Pan Tianshou (1897-1971), and Sha Menghai (1900-1993). The National Academy of Art, the predecessor of today's China Academy of Fine Arts and China's oldest college of art was founded in 1928. Now it has become a cradle for talented artists. Founded in 1904, the Xiling Seal-Engravers' Society is the earliest academic institution and press specialized in the studies of seals and the publication of epigraphs, paintings and calligraphic works. Moreover, the Orchid Pavilion in Shaoxing has been calligraphers' holy land since the saint calligrapher Wang Xizhi wrote the famous Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection.Zhejiang is also one of the first provinces to build modern libraries. Now there are 92 public libraries at or above the county level throughout the province. The century-old Zhejiang Provincial Library, one of the earliest of its kind in China, houses a collection of 5.16 million more copies of books.
A province rich in local artistic traditions, Zhejiang has cultivated varied and colorful folk arts. Famous all over the world are the “Three Kinds of Carvings and One Kind of Sculpture”, namely, Dongyang woodcarving, Qingtian stone carving, Wenzhou boxwood carving, and Ou sculpture. In addition, paper cutting, embroidery, knitting, and colored lanterns are also in colorful varieties. The farmers' and fishermen's paintings from Xiuzhou in Jiaxing, Cixi in Ningbo and Zhoushan are known for the rich flavor of life and labor. There were 37 items and 42 units listed in the Directory of Typical Works of Non-material Cultural Heritage under State Protection publicized by the national government in 2005.