The Sanxingdui Archeological Site and Museum
Sanxingdui is a large archeological site of a recently discovered enigmatic Bronze-age civilization. Chinese archeologists discovered this civilization in 1986. The site is located in Sichuan province about 40 kilometers northeast of Chengdu and about 10 kilometers east of the city of Guanghan. The site is important archeologically. The civilization had high bronze casting technology, and they were able to make unusually large and finely crafted bronze objects. Task Rosen of the British Museum in London considered the bronze relics to be more outstanding than the Terracotta Army in Xi’an. The world's oldest life-size standing human statue that is 260 centimeters tall and weighs 180 kilograms was unearthed there with a bronze tree with birds, flowers, and ornaments that is about 4 meters tall. Sanxingdui Museum was opened in 1997. It is a large, modern archeological museum with an exhibition area of 4,000 square meters. Visitors to the archeological site and the museum will see artifacts discovered at the site that date from the Neolithic age of 6,000 BC through to the Shang and Zhou periods of 1,600 BC until 700 BC, and they will learn about the various peoples who had lived there.
The Sanxingdui site is one of the most important archeological discoveries of the twentieth century. The name Sanxingdui means “Three Stars Mound” and refers to three large mounds of earth at the site that are thought to be the remains of an earthen and brick wall that was built to protect the civilization’s city. The first Sanxingdui relics were discovered by a farmer in 1929. Since then, generations of archaeologists have worked at the site. In 1986, two major sacrificial pits were unearthed that aroused academic attention around the world. Archeologists realized that the relics found at these pits and subsequent discoveries were the remains of a previously unknown city and civilization that existed during the Shang Dynasty period. Until then, it was thought that the Shang Dynasty was China’s only Bronze-age civilization.
The Sanxingdui finds are exciting, but they remain enigmatic. No texts have been found, and there is no mention of this culture in the records of other cultures. 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 an intriguing and interesting mystery.
The Sanxingdui Museum is located in the northeast of the Sanxingdui site, near the Duck River. It is a museum equipped with modern facilities, and has a landscaped garden. The design of the museum is simple, but the objects are presented solemnly. The museum architecture is interesting because it is spiral shaped, so visitors walk upward from one hall to another. There are two galleries. Visitors walk through the first to reach the second. Gallery one displays a variety of artifacts made of god, bronze, jade and pottery. Gallery two exhibits the bronze statues, sculptures, masks, and other bronze artifacts that have amazed scholars by their craftsmanship and unique styles. Their bronze craftsmanship was brilliant. The smiths mixed tin, copper and lead in a proportion that enabled them to cast some of the largest Bronze-age objects ever found. Visitors will be amazed at the design and size of the bronze artifacts, and appreciate the technological and artistic achievements of the civilization.
The first hall of the museum instructs on the history of this civilization. The second hall contains idols and religious artifacts. The artifacts give a clue about the religion, politics and social relationships of those people. The third hall contains the most famous relics, and many objects are deemed to be Chinese national treasures. The fourth hall instructs on the archeological research that has been carried out over several generations and on the importance of this archeological site.
The Sanxingdui Museum is architecturally interesting, has an interesting garden, and the artifacts are beautiful and fascinating. The artifacts are world-famous, though only recently discovered. The first exhibits of Sanxingdui bronzes were held in Beijing in 1987 and in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1993. The displays are technically advanced. Visitors can learn about the history of China during their visit.