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More than just a pretty face

Updated: 2024-04-20 10:20 ( China Daily )
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A hat-donning bronze figure with braided hair standing atop a giant mythical beast, unearthed from the archaeological site of Sanxingdui, Guanghan, Sichuan province.[Photo provided by the Shanghai Museum and the Sanxingdui Museum]

Two thirds of the exhibits have come from the archaeological sites of Sanxingdui and Jinsha. The latter is located about 40 kilometers south of the former in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu and is considered to be its direct successor. These were put by Hu alongside other items excavated from sites on what he believes are "the ancient transmission routes", along which ideas, materials and people traveled as far back as around 3000 BC.

For those who had reached Sanxingdui from the plateau in the northwest (modernday Qinghai and Gansu provinces), there were mountains to climb and rivers to traverse. And for those from the east, the Yangtze River, running from west to east, acted as a ready conduit, connecting Sanxingdui to the various cultures that had flourished along the waterway. Among them was China's most prominent prehistoric jade culture, Liangzhu (3300-2300 BC). Rooted in divination and shamanism, the powerful belief system of Liangzhu is thought to have profoundly influenced Sanxingdui.

"Judging by what has been unearthed, the political entity behind the Sanxingdui civilization was a burgeoning state and a theocracy," says Hu.

That state was believed to be an ancient kingdom known as Shu. Shu historically refers to the area surrounding Chengdu city.

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