Sanxingdui 三星堆 is the name of the archaeological site outside Chengdu of a previously unknown Bronze Age culture. The site is believed to be a major ancient walled city on the banks of the Minjiang River dating from the 11th century BC. Archaeologists are identifying it with the ancient kingdom of Shu before the Qin conquest. According to the Chronicles of Huayang from the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD), the Shu Kingdom was founded by Cancong who was described to have protruding eyes which is a feature found in the bronze sculptures of Sanxingdui. Many of the objects excavated at the site are fish and bird shaped, theorized to be totems of other rulers from the Shu Kingdom with names meaning fish or bird. Archaeologists were surprised to find here an artistic style that was foreign to the history of Chinese art and in effect defies the traditional theory that the Yellow River was the sole “cradle of Chinese civilization.”
Without any inscriptions at the Sanxingdui site and no mention of this ancient culture in any historical text, the Sanxingdui civilization remains an enigma. Where did these people go? What did they look like? Could it be a Westerner who happened to wander into this area and became revered as a god because the tall nose and big eyes could be Western features? Excavations are ongoing and hopefully very soon, we will get some answers.
Next post will be on the Dujiangyan Irrigation System and Mount Qingcheng. Stay tuned!
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