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Mysterious And Dreamy Sanxingdui

In 1929, some precious jade and stone objects were unearthed at Sanxingdui near Guanghan City in Sichuan Province. The rich local flavor of these objects aroused attention in various circles, marking the beginning of the difficult experience of more than half a century's research into the history of the ancient Shu Kingdom. Large-scale arch-aeological excavations since the 80s, have firmly proved that Sanxingdui was a highly developed ancient town and kingdom in southwest China 3000 years ago.

Having a total area of 12 square km, the Sangxingdui site is, so far, the widest in its scope, longest in time and the richest in cultural connotations of all the ancient Shu cultural remains. The typical pottery ware so far unearthed, made in basic styles like the handled urn, pot, the birdheaded spoon, and the large number of exquisite jade and stone objects, delicate bronze ware, house remains, sacrifice pit and 3 long city walls, clearly prove the existence of Sanxingdui ancient Shu Kingdom. Legends about ancient Shu history since ancient times are now affirmed. The center and origin of the Shu kingdom is also evident.

Sanxingdui culture dates from about 4800 to 2800 years ago, during the period from the late phase of the Neolithic period to the late phase of the Shang dynasty (c. 1600-1100 BC)and the early phase of the Zhou dynasty (c. 1100-256BC). According to history, Can Cong, Bo Guan, Yu Fu, Du Yu, Kai Ming, were successively enthroned in Shu. It was estimated that their reigns ranged only from the Xia dynasty to the late phase of Shang dynasty and the beginning of the Zhou dynasty. The prosperous time of Sanxingdui was during the reign of Yufu. Sanxingdui, as an ancient town and kingdom of a civilized society, had an independent and stable position and possessed strong comprehensive powers. It also had cultural communications with adjacent kingdoms and nationalities. The mysterious Sanxingdui relics, which excited the world after their excavation, rival the Qing terra-cotta warriors and horses and Banpo relics, providing countless information on the ancient Shu kingdom.

Dreamy World

The rarely-seen Sanxingdui cultural relics display their treasures in groups. Many objects and wares are unique in the world. In what follows let us look at several of its most representative pieces of bronzeware, chosen from over 400 pieces of its kind.

Among the world-renowned bronze ware of Sanxingdui, the biggest one is a bronze tree. It is difficult for the reader to imagine its scale, its wonderful modeling and rich decoration. The 3.95 meter high tree is so far the biggest single bronze object in the world. The tree is divided into three levels and each level has three levels and each level has three branches. At the end of the winding and extending branches are either birds gazing far into the distance or luscious fruit. On the round stump, there is a wide-open mouthed dragon, whose snaky body connects with the truth, like a dragon descending from the Heaven. The bronze tree conveys the outstanding wisdom of our Shu ancestors.

Sixty-odd bronze objects were excavated in two pits at Sanxingdui. A standing bronze figure is among the most prominent. The statue is 2.62 meters in height, of which the pedestal is 0.9 meter high and the figure, 1.72 meters. Even today, it is a "tall man". Wearing a robe, with a cylindrical wreath on his head, he lifts his arms and hands, seeming to hold something. He stands on the pedestal in bare feet. The whole figure's marvelous modeling, simple lines and imposing outline vividly presents a man of authority, who is king as well as sorcerer. It protrays a primitive religious system unifying both politics and religion.

A huge bronze mask deserves further acclaim. This mask plus its ears is 1.38 meters wide, and 0.64 meters high. Its wide eyes, dense eyebrows, cylindrical eyeballs protruding 16cm forward, closed big mouth, corners turned slightly upward, make for a hideous and solemn countenace. It is regarded as "Qianliyan" (a farsighted person in traditional Chinese novels who can hear voices a long way off). Actually, this huge mask is an emblem of the idol, Can Cong. In fact, it is too big to cover merely the face. It is only used for sacrificial ceremonies and for people to worship..

From No. 1 pit was unearthed a golden cane, which is 1.42 meters in length, 500 grams in weight, with a diameter of 2.3 cm, It is coated with pure gold. Its wooden core had carbonized. There distinct patterns carved on the cane are particularly striking. The lowest one has two symmetrical heads. The upper patterns have two birds back to back and two fish back to back. The necks of the birds and the heads of the fish abut a tassel or fringe. A bronze dragon head was unearthed near the cane. Most probably it is the head of the cane. The gold-coated cane, is an emblem of power and right to rule. It is also a talisman.

Every bonze object of Sanxingdui boasts its uniqueness. It is impossible to describe all one by one. The distinctive modelling of this bronzeware marks it as among the greatest examples of bronze art yet discovered. Yan Wenming, famous scholar and archaeologist, described Sanxingdui as a "dreamy bronze world".

The Art Palace

Guanghan Sanxingdui Museum sits northeast of the Sanxingdui site by the river. It was opened to the public in October 1997. The first phase of the project occupies 80,000 square meters, with its central exhibition area covering 7000 square meters. It is now a large modern historical museum.

The main architecture combines both primitive and modern styles. Its spiral curls and arches are the emblem of Sanxingdui. The yellowish walls emblematize the earth. The whole architecture seems to protrude from the earth and forms a spire at the top. This unique structure shows great originality. The indoor exhibition hall totals 4000 square meters. Displayed there are the "Ancient Town. Ancient Kingdom. Ancient Shu Culture", the latter composed of four units. The first unit unveils the brilliant all-around culture of the ancient Shu, introducing its history and achievements marked in various phases. The second unit presents aspects of its mysterious primitive religion. With the cultural relics as core and by some auxiliary means, the reconstructed largescale scenes demonstrate the political power structure, its society, and reveals the soul and the spirit of our Shu ancestors. The third unit houses ten-odd precious exhibits, which boast great value in art and archaeology. The fourth unit tells of the development and research progress at Sanxingdui, outlining the difficult labours of archaeologists in the past half century, as well as Sanxingdui's great influence at home and abroad, its key position in academic circles and the current state of its research.

The exhibition has some breakthroughs and novelties in terms of content and art forms. Since its opening, Sanxingdui Museum has received millions of domestic and overseas scholars and visitors. In 1998, the "Ancient Town. Ancient Kingdom. Ancient Shu Culture" ranked as one of the ten best exhibitions in China.

Sanxingdui Museum deserves its title of treasured storehouse of cultural relics and mysterious, dreamy art palace.

Courtesy of "China Southwest Airlines Bimonthly"

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