Where did the Sanxingdui civilization come from?

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Where did the Sanxingdui civilization come from? There is a place in Guanghan, Sichuan that has attracted the attention of the world once it was born. This is the symbol of ancient Shu civilization-Sanxingdui. Since the Sanxingdui site became known to the world in the late 1920s, Sanxingdui has undergone nearly 100 years of archaeological exploration and excavation. Recently, more than 500 important cultural relics such as golden mask fragments, giant bronze masks, bronze sacred trees, and ivory have been unearthed from the six newly discovered Sanxingdui cultural “sacrifice pits” at the Sanxingdui site. It can be described as a happy event.

So, where did the Sanxingdui civilization come from? Which cultural relics and treasures were unearthed among them? Today, we are here to uncover the mystery of “Sanxingdui”.

Open the door to the treasures of ancient civilizations

For Chinese archaeologists, 1986 was definitely a fruitful archeological year. On July 18 of this year, a local brick factory worker in Sanxingdui, Guanghan unintentionally opened the door of an ancient civilization treasure while taking soil to make bricks. Taking this as an opportunity, archaeologists successively discovered two sacrificial pits of ancient Shu people, and unearthed bronze, jade, and gold objects that are rare in many generations in this treasure. In particular, the bronze statues are not only numerous, but also have different postures, huge in shape and strong local color. The unearthed life-size bronze statues and human heads were all discovered for the first time in the country, even outside of Greece, Egypt and other regions. The golden rods and golden masks, which are traditionally regarded as unique cultural relics in the West, are also unearthed at this time. Unearthed in China, redrawing people’s cognition. This archaeological discovery, as Professor Tong Enzheng, the curator of the Sichuan University Museum at the time, said: “This is simply a world miracle!”

Bronze bird unearthed from the Sanxingdui site. Many bird-shaped bronzes were unearthed in the sacrificial pits No. 1 and No. 2 of Sanxingdui. Some experts believe that the prototype of this bird is the cormorant, which is the “Fu”, so it may be the totem of the “Fufu” tribe, but it cannot be ruled out that it is the totem of the “Duyu” tribe.

However, the significance of this discovery is not limited to this. More importantly, through the research and analysis of the cultural relics unearthed in Sanxingdui, cultural relics and archaeologists have finally been able to confirm that a highly developed Shu culture existed in Sichuan as early as 4000 years ago, and its cultural connotation “is neither different from The Central Plains culture, which is characterized by tripod cooking utensils such as tripod, 鬲, and 鬻, is also different from the northwest culture based on painted pottery culture. The ancestors of the’Shu Culture’ lived a settled agricultural life on this fertile soil… As late as the Shang Dynasty, there was a highly developed bronze culture and entered a class society. This group of sites is likely to be the political, economic, and cultural center of the ancient Shu kingdom with the embryonic form of the country, and may be similar to the legendary early Shu king Yufu and Du Yu. Related to the city.”

Magical bronze human face

After being unearthed in Sanxingdui, the most impressive thing to the world is those bronze statues with peculiar shapes, wild exaggeration and delicate realism. In these two sacrificial pits, archaeologists have unearthed more than 500 bronze wares. In addition to common bronze statues, lilies and other artifacts, there are also a large number of bronze statues, human faces, animal faces and bronze human heads. These are the largest number of bronze statues discovered in my country so far, and the bronzes with distinctive local colors have never been seen in other relics.

Among all the bronze statues, the one that attracts people’s attention most is the portrait with vertical eyes. The three bronze human faces spread out to both sides like ears, like flying bird wings, and their eyes are like crab eyes, protruding out of the eye sockets in a cylindrical shape. Among the three portraits, the largest is 66 cm high and 138 cm wide. The protruding eye pillars are 13.5 cm in diameter and 16.5 cm long; the other one is slightly smaller in width (77.4 cm), and the protruding eye pillars are also slightly smaller. Short (9 cm), but there is a 68.1 cm tall decoration towering above the bridge of the nose. After adding this imposing decoration that looks like a cirrus cloud and a dragon, the entire face is 82.5 cm high. People have to admire the imagination and smelting ability of the craftsmen of ancient Shu.

Sanxingdui civilization
Bronze human face unearthed from the Sanxingdui site. Archaeologists discovered a total of 21 bronze human faces in Sanxingdui No. 1 and No. 2 sacrificial pits (1 in No. 1 pit, 20 in No. 2 pit, 14 of which are complete). These human faces are larger in shape and may be props used in sacrifices

Because the styles of these three vertical-eye portraits are too weird, they caused a huge sensation when they came out. The world has speculated about how the ancient Shu people conceived such strange shapes. Some people with rich imagination even began to guess, could it be The ancient Shu people have had a “third type of contact”…Of course, this is just random thinking. Archeologists know that although these three zong-eye human faces are peculiar, they are completely consistent with the description of the first Shu king “Cen Cong Zongmu” in the semi-believing history of Shu mythology. These three zong-eye human faces indirectly prove the first in the myth. The king of the Shu Dynasty, Cancong, is not a fiction, it is very likely that he did exist, and he was sacrificed by the ancient Shu people. Of course, the longitudinal growth pipeline violates the common sense of human physiology. Scholars believe that this should come from a kind of imagination and worship of “gods” that the ancient Shu inherited from the Cancong tribe. It may be derived from the candle dragon mentioned in the “Shan Hai Jing”. It may be a “collection of’gods’,’ghosts’, and people” that combines clairvoyance and smooth ears. It is not really a person with such an alien appearance.

In addition to the three most concerned human faces, archaeologists in Sanxingdui have discovered 21 bronze human faces (1 in Pit No. 1 and 20 in Pit No. 2, of which 14 are intact). The human face unearthed in Pit No. 1 is relatively small, only 7 cm high and 9.2 cm wide. The style is simple and the appearance is relatively simple. It is about an earlier product. The human faces unearthed in Pit 2 are not only numerous, but also much larger than those of Pit 1. The largest one is 40.3 cm high and 60.5 cm wide, and the smaller one is 15.2 cm high and 19 cm wide. Some of them look like eyebrows and The eyes are painted with black paint and the lips are painted with red paint, which makes it look more vivid. In addition, archaeologists also discovered 9 bronze animal faces cast by bas-relief in Pit 2. The faces of these beasts resemble long eyebrows and straight noses, with huge eyes and wide mouths, with horns and pointed and drooping ears on the side of their heads. They look like unknown beasts.

Sanxingdui civilization
Bronze longitudinal-eye human face unearthed from the Sanxingdui site. A total of three bronze portraits with vertical eyes were unearthed in the No. 2 sacrificial pit, with eyes protruding from the eye sockets like columns. This portrait is slightly smaller in vertical view, 77.4 cm wide, with the eye pillars protruding from the eye sockets about 9 cm, but there is a 68.1 cm tall ornament above the bridge of the nose, and the overall height is 82.5 cm, which is extraordinary.

What is the use of these human faces? Some experts speculate that this may be a mask. In ancient times, the mask was also known as “the head”. In “Zhou Li·Xiaguan”, there is a record of “the palm covered with bear skin, golden eyes, mysterious clothes and Zhushang…the Esuo room expelled the epidemic”, which shows the sacrifice Wearing or using masks to perform “psychic prayer” is a Central Plains tradition, combined with the fact that it was unearthed in the sacrificial pit, this is not unreasonable. The human and animal faces in Sanxingdui are probably influenced by the Central Plains culture.

The “theocracy” society revealed by the group of bronze figures

The bronze standing figure unearthed in the sacrificial pit of Sanxingdui No. 2 can be said to be one of the tallest and most exquisite cultural relics unearthed in Sanxingdui. This portrait is extremely tall, 2.62 meters high with the base, and weighs 180 kg. It is not only extremely rare in China, but also unique even in ancient civilizations of the world. This figure is slender and has anklets on the legs. It stands barefoot on a square base supported by four dragon heads. The portrait has thick eyebrows and big eyes. He wears a crown engraved with a lotus pattern that symbolizes the sun and wears a dragon-patterned left gusset long breast. Surprisingly, the arms of this portrait are so big that they are completely out of proportion to the body, and the posture is also very awkward: the arms are wrapped around the chest, and the hands are hollow in the shape of a holding object. In Pit No. 2, there was also unearthed an afterimage of a figure similar in posture to the standing bronze figure. The original image has been destroyed and the residual height is only about 40 cm, but the posture of both arms and the holding holes of both hands are exactly the same as the standing bronze figure. In addition, the crown on its head is extremely exaggerated, with large beast ears on both sides, a large square mouth on the front and curly ornaments like an elephant trunk.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
The large bronze figure unearthed from the Sanxingdui site is one of the tallest and most exquisite cultural relics unearthed in Sanxingdui. The figure, together with the base, is 2.62 meters tall and weighs 180 kilograms. The figure is slender and stands barefoot on a square base. The figure’s arms are wrapped around the chest, and the hands are hollow in the shape of a holding object. It is presumed that it should be an image that symbolizes the status of the ancient Shu kingdom.

What exactly are the two figures holding in their hands? Perhaps a bronze altar unearthed in Pit 2 can give people clues: There are two large and small figures cast on the altar. The larger one holds a sprig of auspicious grass, and the smaller one holds a jade zhang with a bud-shaped front end. It seems that these two figures may be holding this object, and their tall shape and crown must be a symbol of their prominence. This has also been verified in the unearthed portraits: many kneeling figures were unearthed in the sacrificial pit of Sanxingdui. Compared with the bronze statues, these kneeling figures are pitifully small, and the most typical kneeling figures are only tall. 13.3 centimeters, this portrait wears a flat-topped double-cornered crown, the left leg is bent, the right leg is kneeling on one knee, and the hand is pressing on the abdomen. It looks like he is kneeling and reporting to the bronze man, while sitting on his knees. One of them is obviously in a low status, wearing a short short coat of right gusset and wearing calf-nosed trousers, obviously just a servant.

In addition, archaeologists also found 57 bronze heads in two sacrificial pits. The heads of these people are generally 40 to 50 centimeters high, and the smallest one is only more than 10 centimeters. The shapes are relatively consistent: the nose is tall, the mouth is grinning to the base of the ears, and the eyes are obliquely triangular looking down, appearing solemn. However, the heads of these bronze heads have their own characteristics. Some have a bald round head, some have a flat top; some heads wear a fretwork crown, others wear a helmet with two upturned corners, and some look like It is to braid the hair on the head, and so on. Without exception, the bottom of these bronze heads are cast in a V shape, which is obviously for easy insertion. Experts speculate that these heads may be used with wooden or clay bodies, or they may be directly inserted on earth platforms or altars. .

It is these bronze figures and heads of different shapes that reveal to people a bit of information about the ancient Shu Kingdom: This civilization is likely to be a “theocracy” society that has undergone class differentiation. The ancient Shu king may be like the bronze man, not only has an outstanding status in the ancient Shu kingdom, but is also responsible for blessings and prayers in the sacrifices, integrating the royal power and “the power”, while other nobles can only Kneeling to the side to report, there are still some slaves who can only fight. And so many sacrificial heads reveal that people in the ancient Shu Kingdom paid much attention to sacrificial rituals as much as the Yin Shang in the Central Plains. However, judging from the fact that no traces of human sacrifice were found in the ruins, they probably used these bronze head portraits. Instead of bloody human sacrifices.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
The golden-faced bronze head of a man on display in the Sanxingdui Museum. These bronze heads are generally 40 to 50 cm high. Most of them have thick eyebrows and big eyes, high nose and wide mouth, full of rough and unrestrained style. The lower part of the heads are mostly V-shaped, presumably they can be inserted into the altar or clay body. Some of the avatars are equipped with pure gold hammered masks, revealing only the hollow eyes and eyebrows, making people feel more mysterious

Stumbled upon the growing point of Shu culture

Guanghan, located in the northwest of the Chengdu Plain, is adjacent to Chengdu and was called Hanzhou in ancient times. There is a Sanxingdui Village 7 Huali away from the city. The name comes from the local area where there are three round loess piles about two to three hundred meters long, standing abruptly on the local plain, looking like three stars arranged in a row in the night sky, hence the name Sanxingdui. On the back of Sanxingdui, the Moon Bay (now Zhenwu Village) across the river has another crescent-shaped terrace. The two places happen to form a “Samsung Moon with Moon” shape, which is hailed as one of the “Hanzhou Eight Scenic Spots” by the locals.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
The jade ge unearthed in the Sanxingdui culture, this jade ge is similar to the jade zhang, the forward has a larger recess and a flying bird is carved inside. This combination of images of Yu Ge with flying birds has the characteristics of Sanxingdui culture and is rare outside of Shu. Experts believe that the Ge-shaped jade artifacts in Sanxingdui should be important props in sacrifices, and used as an intermediary for the ancient Shu people to communicate with the Emperor of Heaven.

In the spring of 1929, because of drought, Yan Daocheng, a farmer who lives near Moon Bay, planned to dredge a silted stream near his field with his son. When the father and son were digging the silt in the stream, they suddenly dug a hard stone ring. The surprised father and son worked hard to uncover the stone ring and found that there was a dirt pit underneath, which was filled with various jade objects. The Yan family who consciously found the treasure did not dare to say anything when they were pleasantly surprised, and buried it back. They waited until the dead of night before the whole family moved out together and transported all the jade back home. Having tasted the sweetness, Yan Daocheng dug around in the next year or two again, trying to dig into the treasure again with good luck.

However, Yan Daocheng’s good fortune was obviously used up. Not only did he get nothing this time, but the father and son were seriously ill and almost died. This serious illness convinced the Yan family that it was because they dug up the treasures from the earth and violated the retribution of the geomancy treasure, so they did not dare to dig any more, and even distributed the jade articles widely with the idea of ​​”pouring wealth and eliminating disasters”.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
Father and son Yan Daocheng (left) and Yan Qingbao (right) who discovered the Sanxingdui jade. In the spring of 1929, they discovered a large number of jade artifacts while scouring the dredging creek, which opened the prelude to Sanxingdui archaeology

However, it also happened that because of their superstitious behavior, Sanxingdui was not destructively excavated, and the news that a large number of jade artifacts were unearthed in Guanghan spread wildly, attracting the attention of local antique dealers. After a lot of hype, “Guanghan jade” has become the new favorite of Chengdu’s antique market, and it has become a hot topic in the society, which has also attracted the attention of the academic circles.

The first to have academic interest in Sanxingdui jade was VHDonnithorne (VHDonnithorne), a British priest who was preaching locally. After he learned from the local farmers that the Yans and his sons had excavated the jade, he immediately realized the archaeological value of the jade, so he asked the local garrison officer to borrow 5 jade tools and bring them back to Chengdu, and handed them to the American professor and geology of West China Union University Home Dai Qianhe (DSDye) appraisal. After seeing it, Dai Qianhe thought it was very valuable and immediately went to Guanghan to conduct a preliminary inspection of the location of the unearthed relics. However, due to the turmoil of the times, it was not until 1934 that the American professor DGgraham, then the curator of the West China Union University Museum, came forward to conduct the first archaeological excavation on Sanxingdui together with the local county magistrate Luo Yucang. I don’t know if it is unfortunate or fortunate. Because of the serious local banditry, the entire excavation work has been hurriedly ended after only ten days. Ge Weihan and others discovered some pottery, jade and stone tools during this inspection, but did not find the ancient Shu civilization buried under Sanxingdui. Heavy treasures have made these national treasures escape the war and the risk of being lost overseas.

Although this time of archaeological work was short, it was the forerunner of the archaeological excavation of Sanxingdui and even the entire ancient Shu civilization. Afterwards, Ge Weihan presciently said in the “Hanzhou Excavation Briefing”: “We consider that the lower limit of Guanghan culture is the early Zhou Dynasty, about 1100 BC, but more evidence can advance it by a period.” At the same time, participate in it. Lin Mingjun, who worked on Sanxingdui’s archaeological work, specially sent a full set of materials to the famous historian and archaeologist living in Japan, Guo Moruo, who was also from Shu. After studying, Guo Moruo excitedly wrote back and pointed out: “If there are new discoveries in other parts of Sichuan in the future, they will show the vast area of ​​this cultural distribution, and they will certainly provide more reliable evidence.” There is no doubt that this is the case. At that time, these archeologists all had a foreboding that Sanxingdui was what they had been waiting for and the key to uncovering the truth of ancient Shu civilization. Only when the time is right, they will be able to awaken this treasure house from their deep sleep and let the world see the elegance of ancient Shu land.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
One of the sacrificial pits restored to its original shape after backfilling, taken in April 2005. The sacrificial pit is located in the Sanxingdui Museum. It can be seen that the upper part of these sacrificial pits is filled with ivory, among which some bronze wares are mixed, and there are a large number of smashed and burned utensils under the ivory layer.

Open the treasure trove of Cuban Shu culture

From 1980 to 1981, the Sichuan Provincial Museum’s field archaeological team carried out large-scale archaeological excavations on a 1,200 square meter area on the east side of the Sanxingdui site after several months of preparation, and discovered 18 house remains, 3 ash pits, and 4 tombs. There are more than 110 pieces of jade, more than 70 pieces of pottery, and more than 100,000 pieces of pottery. The types of pottery include beans, pots, basins, cups, bowls, pots, spoons, etc., and the types of stone tools include adze, chisel, cone, spear, knife, and pestle. Wait. More importantly, the archaeologists not only discovered houses with strong Shu characteristics (“wood bone mud walls” and halls with buckets and walls), but also preliminarily identified the east, west and south of the Sanxingdui site. The straight ridge is artificially stacked and may be the remains of the city wall. So far, people have realized that the civilization relic found in Sanxingdui is “an ancient culture that is widely distributed in Sichuan and has distinctive features, and is different from any other archaeological culture”, and named it Sanxingdui. culture. Su Bingqi, a famous Chinese archaeologist, spoke highly of Sanxingdui: “Here is the growth point of the Shu culture.”


Museum staff are carefully taking out the vertical-view human face unearthed at the Sanxingdui site, which was taken in Hong Kong in May 2007. These Sanxingdui cultural relics were sent to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum to participate in an exhibition entitled “Three Stars Glittering Sands-Mysterious Ancient Shu Civilization”. The longitudinal human face is one of the iconic cultural relics of Sanxingdui because of its prominent eye pillars.

In a sense, the great archaeological discovery that shocked the world in Sanxingdui, Guanghan in 1986-Sacrificial Pit No. 1 and No. 2 was both inevitable and accidental with a little luck. Inevitably, it is because since the discovery of Sanxingdui in the 1930s, Chinese archaeologists have been paying attention to this area for a long time and have conducted many explorations and developments. Especially since the 1980s, relevant departments have mobilized archaeological teams to carry out the development of Sanxingdui. Up to 20 years of continuous research and excavation. With such a high-intensity investment, it is only a matter of time before the results are produced; on the other hand, this discovery is indeed a bit of luck: from March to June 1986, the Department of Archaeology, Sichuan University, Sichuan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and Sanxingdui Workstation Organization A large-scale excavation revealed an area of ​​1,325 square meters, the largest in history. However, during this joint excavation, the archaeologists did not find the sacrificial pit. On the contrary, it was discovered by the local brick factory workers less than a month after the work was completed. The archaeologists who stayed behind to sort out the results of the joint excavation were picked up. Winner.

According to the person’s recollection, Sanxingdui No. 1 sacrificial pit was discovered by local workers Yang Yuanhong and Liu Guangcai of the Nanxing Second Brick Factory. On the morning of July 18, when the two of them were digging the clay, they suddenly heard a crisp sound of damage, and found that a dark green jade in the soil was blocked by a hoe in their hands. The two stopped to observe carefully and found that it seemed to be On the edge of a soil pit, there are densely packed with many artifacts in the pit. Since the archaeological team has been stationed there for many years, the two workers also generally understood the importance of protecting cultural relics and immediately reported to the left-behind personnel. Overjoyed archaeologists rushed to the scene immediately. Even with the psychological preparation, when these staff arrived, they were still shocked by the treasure that appeared in the sacrificial pit.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
The staff is lifting up the bronze statue found in the No. 2 sacrificial pit. The bronze statue is 2.62 meters high and weighs 180 kilograms. It requires multiple people to work together in and outside the pit to transport it out of the sacrificial pit.

Now, 35 years have passed since the discovery of Sanxingdui No. 1 and No. 2 sacrificial pits in 1986. Several generations of archaeologists and researchers have conducted a series of in-depth studies and discussions on the remains of the ruins and unearthed artifacts. They have provided a wealth of information for uncovering the mystery of the ancient Shu civilization, and solved some questions about the ancient Shu civilization. At the same time, more questions were raised.

Sanxingdui civilization fishing headlines
Bronze sacred tree. Source/Posted by Sichuan Education

Today, the discovery and excavation of the new sacrificial pit in Sanxingdui once again shocked the world, and more national treasures have been unearthed one after another. This is not only a great progress in my country’s archaeological work, but also represents our awe and inheritance of a long history of civilization.

 

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