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Tracing the Tracks of History

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Sanxingdui Museum

Sanxingdui Museum

A big bronze standing human statue.

The Sanxingdui Museum is near an archaeological site that dates to the Neolithic, Shang and Zhou periods. In 1988 this site was declared a National Key Cultural Relics Protected Unit, due to its scope, the wealth of its contents, and the rarity and precious nature of its excavated objects.

The site is north of Nanxing Town of Guanghan City in Sichuan Province. It is mainly located on the raised platform between the Yazi River and the Mamu River and it covers 12 square kilometers in total area. The most concentrated parts of the site are at the towns of Sanxing, Rensheng, Zhenwu, and Huilong.

The artifacts from Sanxingdui have had global influence. In 1986, two large Shang-period sacrificial pits were unearthed with more than one thousand gold, bronze, and jade objects, shocking the entire country and shaking the world. Among other things, the finds proved that Sanxingdui was the capital of the ancient Shu Kingdom more than 3,000 years ago. Of all the objects excavated at Sanxingdui, the bronzes are the most fabulous and strange, with their high degree of historical, artistic and scientific value.

Ceramics: Most of the ceramics unearthed at Sanxingdui are made of 'jiashahe' clay and are made on a wheel. They date mainly from four periods: the first from some 4,800 to 4,000 years ago, during a representative Neolithic period culture in the Sichuan basin, the second is roughly contemporary with Xia to Shang, the third with the late Shang, and the fourth with late Shang to the early Western Zhou. From the shape, decoration, and base and method of manufacture, the above ceramics represent an unbroken line of development of Shu culture.

Jades: Although not numerous, the level of production is high and these are well preserved. Among them are ceremonial objects, military objects and tools, with the blades still as sharp as when they were buried. The blades of these objects are so very thin that one can see they were ceremonial in nature and not for actual work or warfare.

Gold objects: Not only were the gold objects excavated from Sanxingdui very finely made but they were quite special. They included face masks and various kinds of ceremonial equipment. Among them, a gold staff, with a human head carved on top with fish, birds, and grain is executed in a fine manner with an extremely beautiful pattern.

Bronzes: The Sanxingdui bronzes have been exhibited both inside and outside China and have shaken the field of art history. The imaginative power of the human statues in particular, their artistic exaggeration, majesty, refinement, and execution make them truly divine works among Shang and Zhou bronzes.

Bronze mask

Bronze

masks

Bronze mask

This group of bronzes can roughly be divided into two types. One is ceremonial objects, and from the shape and artistic style we can see similarities to surrounding regions. Another type of bronzes is strongly religious in flavor: these constitute religious statues, or idols. Among them is a statue of a standing man who is 2.62 meters high and weighs 180 kilograms. His nose is high and straight, his eyes are large, his forehead is square and he has large ears from which hang pierced earlobes. A long braid hangs down behind his head; he wears a resplendent tall crown on his head, his body is covered with dragon-and cloud-patterned robe that folds to the left; his left hand is raised, his right arm is folded across his chest, his hands are large, the two feet are bare and he stands on a square pedestal. Among Shang and Zhou bronzes, his shape and manner are absolutely unique.

Bronze heads and face masks were also among the superlative excavated bronzes. Among these, one mask is 134 centimeters wide and 65 centimeters tall and weighs ten kilograms. If one estimates the full height of a statue with these proportions, it would be an awesome four meters. The mask has large ears and high nose, and exaggerated eyes with protruding pupils.
The grounds and environment of the new museum are exceptionally beautiful. The surrounding space is large and is arranged as in a park, with pools, collections of stones, flowers and trees; the setting also borrows from the natural beauty of the nearby streams.

Address: Sichuan Province, Guanghan City, Xiyazi River
Telephone: 86-838-5500349
Official Website: http://sxd.cn

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