Final Progress Report for the Australia China Council Website (see Australia China Council)



Australia-China cooperation to enhance the knowledge and impacts of historical culture through 3S technologies in the Hanzhong area of western China. 2006-2009.


中澳合作在中国西部汉中地区应用3S技术促进历史古迹研究,提高历史文化影响: 第一阶段


Cooperation and exchange with Hanzhong


This project was designed to build cooperation with the Hanzhong Museum in Shaanxi Province and other groups to develop interactions with Australian museums, art, library and academic groups as well as tourism and similar commercial operations. The primary objective was to enhance understanding, interchange and friendship and the mechanism was to use a common interest in the use of modern technology to support historical research and the preservation of history. The Hanzhong area is the central place in the early history of the “Han” and the Han River basin has a rich fabric of history including great events from China’s past stretching back to Neolithic times. The surrounding Qinling and Ba mountains also support many of China’s most significant wilderness and environmental protection areas as well as rugged mountains and passes that invite adventure.


The ancient Plank Roads


Since ancient times, the traffic through the Qinling has been dominated by the terrain. The Qinling range is a region of major environmental change dividing the south and north of China. This barrier has played a major role in the historical events and economies that developed in China. The Hanzhong basin has also been the place where one of the greatest of ancient engineering achievements occurred as, in order to move people, trade and armies through the mountains, Chinese road builders developed “Plank Roads”. These were built on the sides of cliffs and along the steep banks of rivers to allow traffic to flow through seemingly impenetrable terrain. The Qin/Han Plank Roads and the history that developed around them provide a major working theme of the cooperation in this project. Further information can be found HERE.


Reconstructed Plank Road on the Jialing River near Guangyuan in northern Sichuan


History, technology and development


The west of China is still relatively poor compared with the eastern seaboard. Sustainable tourism is one way of many that is being promoted to improve the situation. But sustainable tourism needs conservation, management, promotion and preservation of the history and environment to proceed in parallel with growth and development. The land and its history and the natural environment are assets to be valued for the long term. The current project sought to bring together people with skills in appropriate technologies. In China these technologies are collectively called “3S” or Remote Sensing, GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and GPS (Global Positioning System) and Australian scientists, surveyors and academics from disciplines from geography to anthropology have a well established reputation in the field.


GPS Track of an ancient road across the Qinling


The International Symposium in May 2007


In the first phase of the project (2006-2007), we built associations, exchanged visits and brought about an International workshop in which the potential benefits of 3S to historical research and the specific study of the Plank Roads was discussed. The Symposium heard 25 papers with 8 papers from guest experts. The speakers and participants presented their experience with 3S in archaeology and well-known experts in the history of the Plank Roads outlined the current state of historical, literary and geographical knowledge. The Symposium was held in Hanzhong between May 16 and 18 in 2007. The proceedings of the Symposium have been edited, translated and published as part of the second phase and have been available since May, 2008. Unfortunately, immediately following the final editing of the proceedings in Hanzhong, the Wenchuan Earthquake struck the west of China.  More information can be found HERE.


Second Phase of activities 2008-2009


Phase 2 of the project developed increased information about the Shu Roads as well as a set of time and place based maps of the plank roads containing the current state of knowledge. It was made available in draft form in modern web-based formats. A planned action was to develop a pilot data base for a “busy” section of the ancient roads which lies north of Hanzhong in the Bao River valley. The activity was well advanced in planning and acquisition of materials when the Wenchuan Earthquake of May 2008 occurred leading to the postponement of this study. It is still planned to complete this task when the people that were to be involved can be re-grouped. However, the underlying and key aim for this cooperation project was to result in exchange, interaction, knowledge and friendships between groups who share common interests in the ancient history and the growing developments that are taking place around Hanzhong. These included historical, environmental and adventure tourism. To complete the project we therefore focussed on organising an exchange visit to Australia in September 2008. The visitors discovered experiences of Chinese people in Australia from the Gold Rushes of the 1800’s to the present at the Bendigo Golden Dragon Museum , the Chinese Museum and the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. In addition, there were additional translations and web site development. The pioneering work in western understanding of the Shu Roads by Herold Wiens was acquired, described and made available to Australians and Chinese. Information from a Qing Period scroll map was acquired through scanning and made available through the web site. During a visit to China this path was travelled and resulted in a Chinese language paper on its findings. We also undertook an assessment of the damage to the Plank Road areas and the impact of the Earthquake on the livelihood of the people who live there and are engaged in historical tourism and related industries.


Final Acquittal in April 2009


Every Project must end and our final acquittal and Reports were presented to the ACC in April 2009. The full set of materials presented to the ACC can be accessed in Project Final Phase II Acquittal & References. A talk given to the Australia-China Friendship Society in Canberra at the time the Acqittal was presented can be found HERE. Of all the things planned and promised during the initial propsal and the second phase proposal, only the pilot data base was undone. However, although the Project is complete, the cooperation is ongoing. A number of aspects are being pursued in China and we hope the pilot data base will attract support and be completed in the future.


Recent Activities can be found under " What's New in the Shu Roads Project? ".



Contacts for Principal Investigators



David Jupp

PO Box 531

Jamison Centre ACT 2614


Phone: +61 2 6246 5895




Prof Brian G Lees

Professor of Geography.

School of Physical, Environmental & Mathematical Sciences

The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy

Canberra ACT 2600


Phone: +61 2 6268 9577




Feng Suiping (冯岁平)


Hanzhong City Museum

Phone: +86 916 2231502




Prof Li Rui (李锐)

Institute of Soil and Water Conservation

Chinese Academy of Sciences & Ministry of Water Resources

No. 26 Xinong Road

Yangling, Shaanxi, 712100

P. R. China

Phone: +86 29 8701 2061




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