The 20,000 bamboo slips unearthed in central China's Hunan Province in June have been identified as official documents from the government of the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC), archeologists said.
The 2,200-year-old bamboo slips were found in an ancient well in Liye, a city in Hunan's Longshan County, after archeologists began inspecting the city in April before a hydropower station is built in the area.
According to the experts, the bamboo slips record various aspects of Qin history, including politics, military affairs, ethnic groups, economics, law, culture, geography and administration.
The slips that have been cleaned -- about 100 so far -- show the high efficiency of the Qin Dynasty government, they said.
Recording tens of thousands of characters, the slips also illustrate a range of Chinese calligraphy styles.
The founder of the Qin Dynasty, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, notorious for his cruelty, ordered all the classical works of Confucianism which was the major philosophy of that period, to be burned. As a result not much material about the Qin Dynasty survives.
Before this batch of bamboo slips were found, there were only some 2,000 slips on the Qin Dynasty and fewer than 1,000 words of official Qin records.
"The bamboo slips, as official documents, were not listed in the books to be burned and fortunately can convey the Qin Dynasty to the present day," said Wu Rongzeng, historian and professor at Peking University's history department.
The slips from Liye which will provide an encyclopedic record of the dynasty, are considered another significant Qin discovery in line with the terra-cotta horses and warriors, experts said.
The discovery has attracted the attention of China's whole archeological field. Shen Jianhua, an expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has hailed the find, calling the bamboo slips "one of the greatest discoveries in China of the 21st century" and "no less significant than the discovery of the oracle scripts."
(Xinhua News Agency August 7, 2002)