Sanxingdui

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big bronze bird-head

The site of Sanxingdui (δΈ‰ζ˜Ÿε †), located in the city of Guanghan, 40 km from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, is recognized as one of the most important ancient remains in the world for its vast size, lengthy period and enriched cultural contents.

The first Sanxingdui relics were discovered by a farmer in 1929 and excavation has continued ever since. During this period, generations of archaeologists have worked on the discovery and research of the Sanxingdui culture. In 1986, two major sacrificial pits were found and they aroused widespread academic attention around the world.

The Sanxingdui finds are exciting, but they remain enigmatic. No texts have been found, nor is there any mention of this culture in the records of other countries. Analysis of lead and other elements in the bronzes indicates sources similar to those of other cultures along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. At this point, however, the unique culture that produced these artifacts remains a mystery.


Contents

Sanxingdui Remains

The wonders of the two pits

In 1986, in the Sanxingdui remains, two large sacrificial pits from the Shang Dynasty were discovered; thousands of natural treasures were unearthed. It was like a sudden Spring thunder, astonishing China and the world. Thus, Sanxingdui become famous. So many people have come to see it, traveling, exploring, and seeking their dreams. They all want to enjoy the sights and the elegance of the treasures in Sanxingdui.

No.1 sacrificial pit was discovered on 18th July 1986. Lying in the south of Sanxingdui, on the site of the Lanxing Second Brick Factory, over ten jade dagger-axes and jade tablets were exposed by workers, triggering a rush by archaeologists. They immediately worked out a digging program and set to work. On the 24th of July, the cultural layer was cleared out; the tamped-down earth was exposed in the pit and connecting tunnel. On the 25th and 26th, some bronze dagger-axes, with features of the early Shang Dynasty were unearthed one by one. These were followed by a gentle bronze image with long hair, a helmet and facemask.

At 3:00am on the 27th of July, a shining, golden flash attracted the workers' attention. "Look! Gold!" they cried. The archaeologists quickly covered the place with the earth and arranged for the site to be guarded by armed police, while reporting the find to the Sichuan Cultural Relics Archaeology Research Institute.

After two weeks' digging, the excavation work was finished. The unearthed cultural relics numbered over 400 pieces and every one was invaluable. Among the bronze vessels, there are images, bending figures, dragon stick-shaped vessels, dragon-shaped ornaments, tiger-shaped ornaments, plates, covers, dagger-axes etc. The jade ware includes: jade tables, dagger-axes, swords; pottery includes: pointed-base cups, flat basins and utensils bases. There are also a great number of clamshells, over ten ivory pieces and about 3-cubic-meter bits of burned bones.

No.2 sacrificial pit was discovered on the evening of the 14th August in 1986. Just when the excavation of No.1 pit was over, the tired but happy archaeologists were about to return, when they were brought more surprising news. In the southeast, between 20m and 30m from No.1 pit, when the workers in the brick factory were taking away the earth, they found a bronze image. Its eye sockets, eyebrows and lips had been decorated. Quickly, part of the No.2 pit appeared. The archaeologists quickly protected the site. From the 20th of August, the excavation to No.2 pit began. After ten day's work, the archaeologists found the hardened clay was similar to the No.1 pit. There were also traces of digging by people during the, but, fortunately, they hadn't penetrated very far; otherwise, the treasures would have disappeared long ago. After clearing out the tamped-down earth, they found a large the lower jaw of an animal-faced sculpture. Then, over ten crisscross ivory pieces appeared.

The remaining objects in No.2 pit can be divided into three stories: upper, middle and lower. In the upper story, there were some 60 elephant tusks; the middle story was mainly filled with bronze wares, such as a large standing man, the sculpture of a man's face, sun wheel etc; in the lower story, there were plant ashes, charcoal powder and small bronze wares.

All the things were put in certain order. At first, clamshells, jade ware, bronze animal-face sculptures, cockatoos, small bronze miscellaneous objects and bronze tree branches, and tree trunks etc. Next, large bronze wares, standing male sculptures, images, sculptured male heads, and tree bases, etc. Finally, there were the elephant tusks. The bronze standing sculpture was snapped in two at the waist. The upper part was in the middle layer, while the lower part was in the northeast section of the pit, covered by bronze trees. Other bronze wares mainly were in the southeast and northwest parts of the pit. Almost all the containers were painted bright red. In the containers were clamshells and jade wares. A bronze animal-faced sculpture was situated in the northwest of the pit, together with lots of clamshells. The bronze male heads were scattered around the pits, but, in the middle layer, there were still some images with some clamshells among them. All the utensils were either destroyed or scorched. There are some clear-fired trails on the tusks and bone wares. We can thus conclude that most of remaining things was destroyed consciously before being put into the pits.

The remaining objects in No.2 pit totaled over 800 pieces altogether. Most of them were bronze wares including standing male sculptures, bending down male sculptures, images, animal-faced sculptures, drinking vessels (zun, lei etc), bronze trees, dagger-axes, eye-shaped axes, upper eyelids, sun-shaped wares, bells, decorative dragons, chicks, snakes and birds. There were also gold tables, gold masks, gold belts, etc. The jade ware included: dagger-axes, tablets, rings, knives, beads, tubes, etc. There were 60 ivory objects and lots of clamshells.

The Remains of Ancient Shu

The scientific discoveries and excavations at Sanxingdui have unveiled the history of Ancient Shu from a period 5,000 years ago. Mr. Shu Bingqi, a famous archaeologist, and chairman of the Archaeology Council of China, confirmed: "The remains of Sanxingdui show an ancient culture, ancient city and an ancient country."

He pointed out, "Ancient culture has tended to mean primitive culture, and an ancient city means the city and town when society was clearly divided into towns and countryside, which is not a common concept now. The country was an independent and steady political unity, which is higher than a clan tribe." Sanxingdui, which adapted a division of tribe and social relatives, is a central ruin and grave, different from the common village ruins.

In January 1988, the State Council designated Sanxingdui as a national important relics-protected unit.

The Sanxingdui remains are composed of several large relic areas. They areas are the largest, most important and elegant ancient Shu cultural relics sites in Sichuan. The remains cover 12 square-km in total. Life went on here about 2,800 to 4,800 years ago, equivalent to the late Neolithic Age. The remains include six places: Sanxingdui on the south bank of Mamu River, the Moon Bend (that is, the tableland between the Mamu River and the Duck River), Shi Zinao to the east of the remains, Hen Liangzi in the west, Xi Quankan on the south bank of the Duck River and Dongsheng temple. The six areas belong to the central remains adapting a division of labor and social relationships. The areas are "Sanxingdui ancient country" encircled with city walls in the east, west, and south. This was just the remote Kingdom of Shu.

The Capital of Ancient Shu

There were solid city walls in the east, south, west of the ancient country. From archaeological studies, we can see all the city walls were carefully tamped with clay. The Eastern city wall was over 1,700 meters long. Now, the remaining part is about 1,100 meters long, and the top is over 20 meters wide, while the bottom is over 40 meters wide. The wall was composed of three parts: the main city wall, outside city wall and inside city wall. The main city wall was tamped parallel, the top of which was built with unfired bricks; the two others were tamped oblique-story. It is proved that China is the earliest country using unfired brick to build walls.

The South city wall is 200 meters from the remains, but only an earth ridge was left.

The remaining part of west city wall is 600 meters long, 6 meters to 10 meters high.

The north side of the ancient city had no wall, perhaps because the Duck River was regarded as a natural protection. The remains of the city are wide in south and narrow in north in a trapezoid. The surface area of Sanxingdui is about 3.5 square km, which was larger than the Shang city of that time in Zhengzhou. The city walls were built in the early Shang Dynasty. The remains of the ancient city were not regular. The way of building combined local and primitive characters, similar to the Shang city in the Central Plains. The building has a protection system, including the city walls, the Mamu River and the Duck River. Such a large city from that period is rarely seen in China. The flowing history of thousands of years made the developed city of Sanxingdui the capital of ancient Shu.


Influnce of Sanxingdui on the World

On the 23rd of August, 1986, Xinhua News Agency reported: "So far, the excavated Sanxingdui remains are the largest among all the early Ba Shu cultural remains. This excavation pushes Ba Shu history back a further 1,000 years to the time from 1,000 BC to 2,000 BC. The exquisite arrangements and the house remains show that agriculture, animal husbandry, handicrafts and architecture had developed by that time, creating the foundations for a civilized society." The news about the great Sanxingdui discoveries spread all over the world. On the 13th of August, 1987, the British newspaper "The Independent" reported the comments of the famous scholar, David Kince, highly evaluating Sanxingdui, under the eye-catching title, "Incomparable Bronze Sculpture in China". He said: "the discovery in Guanghan maybe is the richest discovery. From the metallic cultural relics, we may change our views on the craftsmanship of the East. Chinese bronze craftsmanship has always been regarded as the most remarkable. But the discovery will raise the view on the Chinese creation of metal to a higher level, not only in terms of quantity, but also quality."

Task Rosen, chief archaeological expert from the British Museum in London, said the discovery even seems more outstanding than the terracotta figures of Warriors and Horses buried with the dead in Xi'an.

Chinese archaeologists are especially happy. Shu Bangui, a famous archaeologist and chairman of the Archaeology Council of China, pointed out, "Here is the growth point of Shu culture. Sanxingdui is an ancient city, and an ancient country with ancient culture, which is stable and has developed relatively independently. The former president of Sichuan University Museum, Tong Enzheng, said: "It really is a miracle in the world!"

In September 1987 and September 1990, parts of Sanxingdui cultural relics were put on show in Beijing twice. Their profound cultural contents and uniqueness charmed the audiences.

In May 1993,parts of the relics were put on show in the Lausanne Olympic Museum is Switzerland. Facing the unique bronze wares from the ancient East, the people of the West were full of surprise and admiration.

In June 1995, some of the relics were displayed in Eisengub Heights and caused a sensation. In December of that year, large crowds were drawn to the Munich Hyburg Foundation Arts Museum by a similar display. In April 1996, some of the relics arrived in Switzerland. In the exhibition hall of the Zurich Arts Museum, the audience queued endlessly.

In September 1996, parts of relics crossed the English Channel, and the British Museum in London was packed.

Similar scenes were observed in Denmark in February 1997.

Later, the relics were on shown in the United States and Japan, and were just as well received. Sanxingdui culture relics showed off its charms and fascinated people all over the world.

Process of Discoveries and Excavation

In spring 1929, Yan Daocheng, a farmer in Moon Bend, Zhongxing Chang (today's Nanxing Town), was working with his family to dig an irrigation ditch for a water bike. His son, Yan Qing, was using a hoe when he dug up a circular piece of jade. Yan Daocheng came as soon as he heard the news. Together, they unearthed about 400 pieces of colorful jade. They hurriedly replaced the earth and then the whole family returned late at night to remove and hide the treasures. In advertently, Yan Daocheng and his family had opened a door on the ancient state of Shu. In spring, 1934, Ge Weihan, an American professor and Ling Mingjun, a clerk in the West China University, headed a steam of archaeological workers to excavate the Sanxingdui remains. It lasted ten days. About 400 pieces of jade ware and other objects were unearthed.

In 1963, while excavating in the area, Mr. Feng Hanji pointed to Sanxingdui and told his students that the remains were so congested that this must be a central city of ancient Shu. With the further development of the excavations, his prediction was confirmed.

On March 1st, 1986, the largest ever archaeological excavation of Sanxingdui began. The archaeologists in the History Department of Sichuan University, Sichuan Archaeological Research Institute and Guanghan City, made the remaining mound as the center of operations and began to work outwards. The total area of excavation is 1,325 square meters, including 53 holes. They cleared out 9 house ruins, 101 ash pits, and got over 100,000 earthenware pieces and about 500 pieces of bronze, jade and lacquer ware. On July 18, No.1 pit was found. Over 400 pieces altogether, including gold-scepters, gold masks, bronze images, jade tablets, jade dagger-axes and ivories were unearthed. On July 27, the No.2 pit was found. Over 800 pieces together, including gold objects, a bronze standing man, bronze vertical-eyed mask, large sacred trees, numerous bronze images and a large number of jade objects were all taken out from the pit.

Position of Sanxingdui in Academic Circle

Over a period of half a century, generations of archaeologists have worked hard on Sanxingdui. Finally, two sacrificial pits were found. The discoveries aroused widespread attention in academic circles and made the site the subject of world focus. In the winter of 1986, an academic discussion on Shu's History and Culture was held in Guanghan. This was a top-notch national discussion about the Ba Shu history. Those present warmly discussed the far-reaching significance of the discoveries, the nature of the relics and the effect on the current understanding of Ba Shu's history and culture. Many famous scholars in China delivered speeches during the meeting. After an all-round investigation, Professor Shu Bangui declared the Sanxingdui relics to be the remains of an ancient culture, ancient city, and ancient kingdom.

In spring, 1992, a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the discovery of Sanxingdui and the National Discussion of Ba Shu's History and Culture was held in Guanghan, attended by over 200 experts and scholars from home and abroad.

In August 1992, the ceremony for the completion of the Sanxingdui Museum was held.

On October 26, 1997, Sanxingdui Museum was opened formally.


Position of Sanxingdui in Academic Circle

Over a period of half a century, generations of archaeologists have worked hard on Sanxingdui. Finally, two sacrificial pits were found. The discoveries aroused widespread attention in academic circles and made the site the subject of world focus. In the winter of 1986, an academic discussion on Shu's History and Culture was held in Guanghan. This was a top-notch national discussion about the Ba Shu history. Those present warmly discussed the far-reaching significance of the discoveries, the nature of the relics and the effect on the current understanding of Ba Shu's history and culture. Many famous scholars in China delivered speeches during the meeting. After an all-round investigation, Professor Shu Bangui declared the Sanxingdui relics to be the remains of an ancient culture, ancient city, and ancient kingdom.

In spring, 1992, a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the discovery of Sanxingdui and the National Discussion of Ba Shu's History and Culture was held in Guanghan, attended by over 200 experts and scholars from home and abroad.

In August 1992, the ceremony for the completion of the Sanxingdui Museum was held.

On October 26, 1997, Sanxingdui Museum was opened formally.


Sanxingdui Museum

The unique Sanxingdui Museum is located in the northeast of the Sanxingdui remains, near the Duck River. It is a museum equipped with modern facilities. Covering 200,000 square meters, the total investment has reached over 30 million yuan. The building of the museum was discussed in April 1988. The design was examined and approved in March 1990. The foundation stone was laid in August 1992. The main project was finished in June 1994. "Ancient Kingdom and Ancient Shu" was deliberated in January 1995. The projects, such as decoration, garden construction, exhibition distribution and necessary installation were started in August 1996. The museum was formally opened to public in October 1997.

The whole design of the museum is simple, but with a solemn style. The flame is peculiar. The main object is a deformed spiral. It has the poetic charm with historical, geographical features and cultural art. It fully shows the broadness and profundity of Sanxingdui culture.

The winding spiral-shaped curved line rises step by step. It means the development of society: from primitive to civilized; from inferior to advanced. It tells the surging and winding course of history.

The mound-shaped architectural complex seems to come out from the earth abruptly. It symbolizes the local culture. It tells people this is the source of Shu culture, the source of the Yangtze River civilization. The winding arc-shaped architecture directly expresses the profound nature of these mounds.

On top of the architecture, there's a triangular tower symbolizing the connection of heaven and earth, as well as the gods and human beings. The civilization of ancient Shu is spread to all parts of China and the whole world.

The three large bronze masks were hung high on top of the tower. They are the symbols of Sanxingdui Museum, shining upon the farsighted Shu people. Shu people welcome the guests coming from every part of the world.

The Cultural Display of Ancient City, Ancient Kingdom, Ancient Shu in Sanxingdui Museum has a rich content and unique form. It is considered as one of the ten most valuable cultural relic displays in China.

The halls in the museum cover about 3,000 square meters. The cultural relics are the nucleus of the display, running through the whole hall. The relics with more than 1,000 patterns, jades, gold, bronzes from sacrificial pits of Shang Dynasty are on show fully.

In the forward hall, there are man-face and bird-body bronze sculpture. The first feeling you'll have is the people of Shu wanted to fly into heaven like hawks (especially large birds) beyond reality. The sacred bird expresses that everything has a soul. The heaven, the human being is in perfect harmony.

The first hall is composed of "three stars accompanying the moon", the splendid civilization of ancient Shu. Cultural relics showed in this hall systemically represent the excellent achievements in every field in its long history.

The second hall contains symbols of all kinds of gods reflecting the mysterious and primitive religion. Cultural relics showed in this hall tell people about the political structure and social relations of ancient Shu, as well as the idea of ancient people.

The third hall is composed of "forever the soul of Shu", the special cream of relics. Here are shown over 10 groups of national treasures with historical and artistic value.

The fourth hall with the scheme of "forever Sanxingdui" shows off the excavations and studies of Sanxingdui. It introduces the industrious work of generations of experts both at home and abroad in the past 50 years. It represents the great effect of Sanxingdui and the important role it plays in academic circles.

The designs of Sanxingdui Museum have many architectural breakthroughs. Modern technologies (sound, light, and electricity) are used to show the charm of the ancient site. The displays also provide foreigners with information about the history of China.

The surroundings of the Sanxingdui Museum are beautiful and elegant. There are green grasslands, bright lakes, unique hills, and beautiful gardens nearby.


Collections of Sanxingdui

bird-head spoon
bronze animal-face image
bronze bell
bronze human image
Among large numbers of Chinese cultural relics, Sanxingdui is considered one of those with the greatest historical and scientific significance.

Bronze Wares

Masks are an important part of bronze ware. They include man-face masks and vertical-eyed masks with a pair of post-shaped bulging eyes and a pair of fully expanded ears. On their foreheads, a kui-dragon (a special shape) crown was castled. The largest one of the vertical-eyed masks is 65 cm high and 138 cm wide. It is really the King of all masks in the world. It is considered a combination of gods and a human being; this was regarded as the idol of the ancient Shu people.

Animal-face masks are another kind of special structure, with nine types altogether. Animal-face masks have Kui-dragon ears, open mouths and grinning teeth, and look like neither a human being nor any known animal. They were considered a kind of god by ancient people.

The 50 bronze images from the two pits are the nucleus of bronze ware. The faces are almost the same: all with sword-shaped eyebrows, chestnut eyes, towering noses and open mouths; but the hairstyles are different from each other. Some busts are bald, while others wear a crown; some have hair coiled up and some wear hair clasps; but all are lively. So many bronzes are sure to be a collection of worshiped images, representing people of imperial or leading groups. They reflect the character of the ancient Shu society in which gods and humans were considered to be connected each other, and also politics and religion.

The bronze animal sculptures of dragons, snakes, tigers, birds, chicks, are vivid. They reflect the ancient Shu people's ideology that all things have spirits and show their sincerity to gods. Among them, the sincerity to birds is the core. Birds, such as Canchong, Yufu, Duyu, etc, are the names of several ancient Shu dynasties. Birds were also regarded as the symbol of the sun.

Bronze zun and bronze lei (a special drinking vessel) are the biggest of the bronze wares. In ancient times, Zun and lei were used for wine.

The jade wares include tablets, bi (a jade ring), yuan (a jade ring with a large hole), zhong (a jade ware), and daggers, axes, chisels, axes, knives, swords etc. The guard of honor used many models of tools and weapons. Most of them are jade ceremonial utensils. The jade wares reflect the high artistic level of that time.

The bronze sculptures are unique among Chinese relics. Among them, the large standing man sculpture was called the "head of the wizards".

Bronze Man

It weighs 180 kg. It was composed of two parts: the square base is 90 cm high, the figure 172 cm.

The image wears a tubular crown. There are bracelets round the bare feet. There is a rectangular hole in the back of head. The edges of the crown have animal designs. The image wears three pieces of clothing on which are patterns of dragons, birds and worms. The belt is an imperial symbol. The encircling hands are extremely exaggerated.

The standing man represents such figures as a king and wizard. In ancient people's minds, he is a combination of god, wizard, and king.

Bronze Vertical Mask

The face of the bronze vertical-eyed mask appears curried, and the section appears U-shaped. It has bushy eyebrows and large eyes, the brow tips rise upward. The eyes are crossed and the eyeballs are extremely exaggerated, bulging forward like a round-post; the muscle was pulled out and attached to the eyebrow like a circle. The eyeballs are hollow. It has square-shaped ears; the upper part expands outward like peaches. The nose is short, and the mouth is large and deep. The mouth corners are lifted upward, as if smiling. There is a square hole in the forehead. The bronze vertical eyed mask the biggest among all the Sanxingdui masks, being 65 cm high and 138 cm wide.

Bronze Scared Tree

The whole height of the sacred tree is 395 cm with nine branches on the trunk. There were three kinds of fruits on every branch, including peaches. The sacred tree in Sanxingdui symbolizes Fushang and Ruomu, which are considered to be connected with the Heaven and the Earth.

Jade Wares

There is a tablet among the unearthed jades from No.2 pit that is 54.5 cm long. It is the most representative cultural object in the Sanxingdui jade wares. Its chief value is that there is full design on it.

Its two sides have the same figure designs, a symmetrical arrangement. Two designs are almost the same, except the lower one is a little short and there were only two figures on it.

Each design is made up of five pictures: in the lower picture, there are two hills and some cloud-air-designs with circles in their centers. They may be the symbol of the sun. There are some unexplained objects like winding hooks between the hills. There is an ivory tablet on each outer edge of the two hills. The teeth-shaped edges are very clear. In the second picture, there are three figures bending down, with vault-like hats. On the hat there is one pot-design. There are two interlined ear ornaments. The figures wear a skirt without sleeves, the two hands encircled, which is taken as a special gesture. The third picture is the geometrical-shaped design. In the fourth picture there are two hills similar to the ones in the first one below. There are some designs like boats between hills. Outside the hills, it seems that a man makes a fist with a thumb pressing against the bend of the hill. In the top picture, there were three figures, whose feet present a special character (two figures stand below). The upper one wears a crown with a pot-design. There are some bell-like ear ornaments. Again, the two make a strange gesture, which is the same as the figure at the bottom.

The design is rarely seen, very precious and full of puzzles. For example: what is the relationship between the bending-down man in the lower picture and the standing man above? Perhaps the lower one is the earth, while the upper is heaven, or the sacrificial relationship.

Gold Wares

Gold Scepter

Gold objects have a special position in the collections of Sanxingdui cultural relics. Among them, gold-scepters and bronze images with gold masks are the most significant ones. They include men wearing gold masks. Besides, there are gold tigers, leaves, belts, tablets, and blocks.

The scepter is 142 cm long and the diameter is 2.3 cm. It weighs 46.3 gm. A strip of gold was beaten first, then wrapped around a wooden stick, and then the gold scepter was made. When it was unearthed, their remained some carbonized wood pits. The most precious point is there are some sculptural designs on the top, which are 46 cm long and include three Groups. On this group near the end, if closed, there are two images that are symmetrical and wear fire-tooth crowns, with triangular eardrums, showing pleasant smiles. The designs of the next two groups are the same. There are two birds in the opposite direction below, two fish back to back above. At the necks of the birds and the heads of the fish, there are arrow-like objects. Someone suggests an arrow shot both the birds and the fish, while others argue that is a spike-shaped object, and then inferred that there was rice planting in agriculture at that time. In the design, the images, fish and birds are closely connected. What did this mean? No one knows. Although some scholars made some interpretation, it isn't perfect. The designs on the scepter are also a big puzzle among the many puzzles of Sanxingdui.

Puzzles of Sanxingdui Through the Ages

Sanxingdui is another source of Chinese civilization. The unique and wonderful Sanxingdui culture civilization tells us that the source of Chinese civilization is pluralistic. There was not only the Yellow River civilization, but also the Yangtze River civilization in China. Sanxingdui represents the Yangtze River civilization. At the same time, a new field of study field has opened up in academic circles. Many important academic problems about Sanxingdui form puzzles through the ages. The puzzles of Sanxingdui and ancient Shu history will hopefully be unlocked in the future. What is the source of Sanxingdui culture? Is it either from the New Stone Age culture in the upper reaches of the Su River, or from a certain kind of ancient regional culture moving upstream? Is there any relationship between Sanxingdui culture and Longshan culture in Shandong? Is the main part from Shandong? Is Sanxingdui culture the result of a combination of native and foreign culture, or the combination of many kinds of cultures? Maybe it was a purely local culture.

Where was the source of Sanxingdui inhabitants, belonging to Diqiang, Puren, Ba, Dongyi, Yue or Sanmiao (all of these were ancient national minorities)? Was there any close relationship between the stone-buried coffin culture in the upper reaches of the Ming River and Sanxingdui? Is it true that these natives came from Diqiang in the northwest and the upper reaches of the Ming River? Were the Sanxingdui inhabitants descendants of aborigines?

What was ancient Shu Kingdom really like? What were the nature of politics and religion? Was it a loose tribal military league? Or was it a regional kingdom ruled by a dynasty in the central plains? Was the ancient country higher than a stable, relatively independent early country? Was it the native's own kingdom which was founded in earlier time? Which is the main force: a secular or religious authority? Pr was it a combination of both?

The worship problem reflected by Sanxingdui cultural relics was complex, too. Some thought it was totems, while some thought it was nature worship without any totems, But most people believe the religious worship was a complex system involving a mix of many types, including nature worship, ancestor worship and god worship. Sanxingdui reflects a system in which a multi-level political center formed a net-like structure.

How did the miraculous bronze smelting technique and the culture symbolized by the Sanxingdui bronze ware come into being? Are they the results of ancient Shu people's independent developing or affected by nearly countries, especially by the central plains' culture? Or it is the results of adopting foreign cultures, such as those from Western Asia, East, and South Asia? Many scholars thought the bronze ware represented a combination of ancient Shu culture and foreign culture, but with the local factor dominant.

How long did the ancient Kingdom last? Why did it disappear suddenly? Which lasted the longest - the Yufu, Duyu or Kaiming Dynasty? Generally, people thought there was a long development course. It lasted over 1,000 years, and had a close relationship with several ancient Shu dynasties in legends. Maybe it had disappeared by the end of Shang Dynasty. The reason of its disappearance may be the change of regime. Later, the center of politics and culture moved to Chengdu and its nearby areas.

What is the age and nature of the two sacrificial pits? Was it in the period of the Shang Dynasty, Western Zhou, Spring and Autumn Dynasty, or the Warrior States, etc? The tendency in academic circles is to accept the age as being that of the Shang Dynasty. It means No.1 pit was created at about the time of the first period of the Ying Ruins. No.2 pit was equivalent to the second period of the Ying Ruins. Regarding the nature of the pits, some said they were burial pits, while others have suggested they are merely utensil pits. But, the most representative idea is that the two pits were sacrificial pits. The two pits were the places where ancient Shu people offered grand sacrifices. The aim of their worship was heaven, or earth, or the gods, or the ancestors. The choice of aims has a relationship with the change of regimes.

Many unearthed utensils of Spring and Autumn Dynasty, the Warrior States in Sichuan had some designs and insignias, which were called "Ba Shu picture words". Are they tribal words? Are they pictures or some special symbols? Maybe parts of them had the meaning of words. An understanding of the "Ba Shu picture words" is sure to help unlock the puzzles of ancient Shu in Sanxingdui.

The puzzle of Sanxingdui is a puzzle of the ages. but it will be unlocked eventually!

Main Events of Sanxingdui

In 1929, a great number of jade objects with ancient Shu local characters were discovered in Moon Bend for the first time. In 1933, Ge Weihan, a professor at the West China University Museum, investigated the remains.

In 1934, Ge Weihan, Li Mingjun etc, carried out the excavation; the achievement was highly appraised by Mr. Guo Moruo.

In 1953, the director of Southwest Museum, Mr.Feng Hanji etc investigated Sanxingdui.

In 1956, Sichuan Museum investigated Sanxingdui.

In 1958, Sichuan Museum, the History Department of Sichuan University together investigated the ruins, and found a lot of relics with ancient Shu cultural features.

In 1963, Professor Feng Hanji began excavation.

In 1980, several units carried out the large-scale excavation, and this work extended over the rest of the decade.

In 1981, the large house ruins were discovered. Aerial pictures were taken.

In 1982, the leaders of National Relics Bureau came to the site to investigate, and then Sanxingdui was listed as a nationally important archaeological site.

In 1984, the cultural remains from the late Neolithic Age to early Western Zhou were discovered in Xi Quankan, enabling the timeframe of Sanxingdui to be generally defined.

In October 1985, the work proved the city walls in the ruins were tamped with clay by laborers.

In May 1986, the Sichuan Relic Management Committee and some other units carried out large-scale excavation, pushing back the date of Sanxingdui to 5,000 years ago.

In June 1986, the No.1 sacrificial pit was found and excavated.

In August 1986, the No.2 sacrificial pit was found and excavated.

In October 1986, the national academic discussion on Sanxingdui was held.

In January 1987, the Sichuan provincial government designated the Sanxingdui remains to be an important protected unit.

In May 1987, over one thousand relics in the two pits were put into order.

Professor Shu Bangui, etc investigated Sanxingdui, and declared it to contain relics of an "ancient culture, ancient city and ancient country.

In 1987, to protect the ruins, two brick factories were closed and moved elsewhere.

In September 1987, some relics in Sanxingdui were included in "the display of national important archaeological new discoveries" held in Beijing.

In January 1988, the State Council declared the Sanxingdui remains to be an important cultural protected relics unit in the whole country.

In February 1988, Sanxingdui Remains Working Station Museum of the Sichuan Relic Archaeology Institute was built.

In April 1988, preparations began for the Sanxingdui Museum.

In January 1989, the excavation to Sanxingdui proved the walls were tamped by laborers.

In January 1990, the excavation of the Eastern city wall began, revealed unfired bricks, showing both the age and the ways of tamping the city walls.

In March 1990, the chief building design of Sanxingdui was examined and approved.

In May 1990, a dike was built to prevent flooding.

In September 1990, some relics were included in the competition "the display of Chinese culturally splendid relics".

In June 1992, the academic discussion meeting was held to discuss the 60 years of work on Sanxingdui.

In May 1992, the excavation of the Western city wall was accepted. Sanxingdui ancient city was accepted.

In August 1992, a foundation stone laying ceremony was held for the Sanxingdui Museum.

In May 1993, some relics in Sanxingdui were put on show in the Lausanne Olympic Museum.

In July 1994, the earth building work project of the chief museum of Sanxingdui Museum was finished.

In September 1994, the Southern city wall was discovered and excavated; this showed the boundary of the ancient city area was over 3 km.

In January 1995, the content design scheme "the cultural display of ancient city, ancient country, ancient Shu" in Sanxingdui Museum was examined and approved.

In June 1995, the firm design of the display was examined and approved.

In December 1995, some relics in Sanxingdui were displayed in the Munich Hybary Foundation Arts Museum in Germany.

In April 1996, some relics in Sanxingdui were displayed in the Zurich Art Museum in Switzerland.

In August 1996, the inner decoration and displays in the Sanxingdui Museum, the outer garden and extra buildings were completed.

In September 1996, some relics in Sanxingdui were displayed in the British Museum.

In October 1996, Japan and China together investigated the surrounds of the Museum.

In February 1997, some relics in Sanxingdui were displayed in Denmark.

In Oct 1997, Sanxingdui Museum in Guanghan was opened and the relics began to be displayed fully.

In February 1998, some relics in Sanxingdui were displayed in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In June 1998, some relics in Sanxingdui were displayed in the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima.

In September 1998, "The display of ancient city, ancient country, ancient Shu" in Sanxingdui Museum was chosen as one of the ten most splendid displays in the first competition that was held by the national relics system.

In October 1998, the celebration to mark the 1st anniversary of the opening of the Sanxingdui Museum, a prize awards ceremony from the national relics system was held in Guanghan, Sichuan.

In March 1999, some relics of Sanxingdui were on show in Taipei's former Imperial Palace Museum.

In July 2000, Sanxingdui and Yinshang Civilization International Academic Discussion was held in Guanghan, Sichuan.

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