Wonders of Sanxingdui: The bronze wares from the mysterious culture
By Deng Junfang, Ye Qing

Situated in the northeast of the state-protected Sanxingdui Site by the Yazi River bank in Guanghan – a city famed for its long history and splendid culture, Sanxingdui Museum is a modern theme museum which is 40 kilometers to the north of Chengdu.

The cultural relics at Sanxingdui are the precious cultural heritage of mankind, which contain a rich historical, cultural, and scientific value. The pottery, jade, and bronze wares unearthed from Sanxingdui also reflect the exquisite manufacturing and smelting techniques of the people in the ancient Kingdom of Shu. Among them, the bronze wares unearthed from Sanxingdui are complicated in craftsmanship and exquisite in shape, reaching the highest level of mold casting technology at that time.

Bronze heavenly tree



Among the findings, the huge bronze heavenly tree is no doubt one of the most colossal and enigmatic. It took eight years to reassemble the now 3.96-meter-tall bronze tree, which is displayed at Sanxingdui Museum in Sichuan Province, southwestern China. Experts say that the tree should be even higher as its treetop is still missing.

It has a main body and base. It resembles a great tree, rising from the top of a three-sided mountain. At three levels on the trunk, three branches emerge, each bearing three pieces of fruit. Nine of these fruit point upward, each with a bird standing on it. Experts believe it reflects the ancient Shu people's worship of the solar deity.

Bronze figure statue



Among the numerous bronze statues in Sanxingdui, the "highest" ruler is this giant standing bronze figure, which is 260.8 centimeters high. It is one of the bronze wares unearthed from the No. 2 sacrificial pits of the Sanxingdui archaeological site.

Among China's ancient bronze figure statues, one unearthed in the archaeological site of Sanxingdui is the largest and the oldest of its kind that has been found so far. Gorgeously dressed, this tall, elongated figure stands barefoot on top of a pedestal in the shape of an elephant head. The figure appears to be holding something in its two hands, like a shaman performing a religious ceremony.

Who is this mysterious and wired man? Through its upright figure and exquisite clothing, there is no doubt that he is a big shot. There are mainly two versions of his identity. Some experts believe that he was a wizard, while others think that he was an acclaimed king. But no matter who he was, the statue was certainly used as a ritual object.

Bronze altar



The replica of the altar was made from over 100 bronze pieces discovered in No. 2 sacrificial pits of the Sanxingdui archaeological site. It was severely crushed and burned intentionally when buried in the earth.

It took archaeologists two years to make a replica of the altar based on their research. It is composed of three parts: the round animal-shaped base, the standing men with a crooked stick in hand, and the mountain-shaped top carved with a bird's statue with a human head. Experts say that the three-part structure reflects the ancient Shu people's understanding of the three layers of the world: the beast at the bottom represents the land, the man in the middle represents the world, while the bird at the top represents heaven.

Infographic designer: Fan Chenxiao

Cover image designer: Feng Yuan

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