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.

Pictures Show>>
Sanxingdui Remains
Effect of Sanxingdui in
the World
Process of Discoveries
and Excavation
Position of Sanxingdui in
Academic Circle
Sanxingdui Museum
Collections of Sanxingdui
Puzzles of Sanxingdui Through the Ages
Main Events of Sanxingdui

Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: Tel: 86-10-68996214/15/16