The ruins of Wusheng Gate, also part of the city walls of ancient Wuchangwere discovered recently in a construction site at the intersection of Zhongshan Road and Deshengqiao in Wuchang.

▲ The detailed map of the inside and outside area of Hubei Province's capital which the Hubei Army Special School drew in 1908

Judging from the location and scale of the city wall base, the archaeologists concluded that it is a northern barbican entrance to ancient Wuchang. The base of the city wall was thought to have been built in the Ming dynasty (A.D.1368- 1644). The bricks found around the site, however, indicate that they were earlier than the Ming dynasty. The ruins also indirectly confirm the accuracy of the detailed map of the inside and outside area of Hubei Province's capital which the Hubei Army Special School drew in 1908. It also shows the continuity of the Wuchang wall from the Ming dynasty to modern times.

 700-year-old Song bricks

Liu Wenbin, an expert on historical bricks, has collected more than 30 bricks around the construction site. These bricks carry inscriptions that imply they were made as early as the Song dynasty (A.D.960-1279). Chang Qingxu, a cultural and historical expert at the Hubei Provincial Library, examined these bricks. He said that most of them were produced in the Song dynasty.

 

Among them is a brick that is extremely valuable, as Chang pointed out. This brick is marked with the characters "咸淳壬申知鄂"(Xianchunrenshen Zhi'e) by means of embossing. Chang said that this brick reveals an accurate dating of when it was produced and carries other historical information worthy of deeper analysis.

▲ The brick marked with the characters "咸淳壬申知鄂"

The characters "咸淳" on this brick is the era name of Emperor ZhaoQi and"壬申" implies a specific sexagenary year in the Chinese lunar calendar. Together, "咸淳壬申" refers to the year 1272 AD, the eighth year of Emperor ZhaoQi's regime in the Southern Song dynasty. That was one year before the Mongols of the Yuan dynasty conquered the city of Xiangyang in Hubei.

Two years later, the army of the Song dynasty based in Hanyang and E'zhou surrendered to the Yuan army, according to historical recordings. It is thus safe to say that his brick is over 700 years old.

There are also inscriptions on other ancient bricks, such as"饶三七," "孟桥徐百," "蒲州左十" and "蒲州钟三" indicating the names of the producer of each brick and the places they were produced.

Chang said that the ancient people had a strict management procedure, inspection system and accountability mechanism for the production process and quality control of the city wall bricks. The craftsmen of that time would have to leave their names on the bricks they made, which are equivalent to today's barcodes of the producers or the supervisors.

Old brick relates to folk hero Yue Fei

Among the batch of Song bricks collected by Liu, some are engraved with stamps like "三十将" (the Thirtieth Troop), "水军" (navy), "前军"(advanced force), "踏白军"(scouts), and "右雄武" (The troop named Right Xiongwu). Based on related historical materials, these titles are the compilations or designations in the military system of the Song dynasty.

▲ Embessed ancient bricks collected by Liu Wenbin

The inscription "踏白军" coincided with the discovery of a previous site. In Feb.2012, a tomb with brick rooms in the Song dynasty was found at the construction site of a transformer substation on Xingguo Road, Caijiazui, Wuchang District. Further research on the remaining tombstone revealed that the tomb belonged to Dong Xian, a scout commander. There were grave inscriptions for Dong Xian and his wife on the tombstone. According to the inscription, Dong led his troops to join Yue Fei's army when Yue, a great military general, took over Xiangyang and other prefectures during the Northern Expedition.

"As with cultural relics,the bricks of the ancient city cannot be duplicated."Chang said that he hopes more people will join in the protection of the ancient city bricks. He called on people who have found old bricks to record the location of the discovery and take photos for further study.