| 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
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
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.