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Chinese History | Sanxingdui Museum

Updated on June 12, 2012

Visit Sanxingdui Museum for Shu Kingdom History

There are many weird looking bronze figures and other artefacts in this museum, situated 40 km North of Chengdu. Some of them are over 4,000 years old, and stir the imagination while giving an insight into the ancient Shu Kingdom, which existed during the period of the Shang Dynasty.

Image: drs2biz | Lens Updated: June 12th, 2012 @ 09:00 pm Beijing time.

Sanxingdui Culture

circa 2050 BCE to 1250 BCE

Sanxingdui Museum Basic Data
Sanxingdui Museum Basic Data

Sanxingdui Museum Basic Data!

Facts and figures for the museum...


Sanxingdui Historic Relics 618300

4 km North-east of Nanxing Township,

Guanghan County, Chengdu Prefecture,

Sichuan Province.

Tel Exchange: 0838-6665599

Tel: 0838-5500349

Fax: 0838-5500349

Opening Hours:

Ticket Hours: 8:30-17:00

Exhibition Hours: 8:30-18:00

Bronze Exhibition Hall: 8:30-18:30


a) Chengdu Xinnanmen (New South Gate) Bus Station =>

buses to site at 08:30 and 15:00.

b) Chengdu Chengbei Passenger Transport Centre (Chengdu North Railway Station) =>

buses to site every 15 minutes.

c) Get to Guanghan City first and then take city bus 6 to Sanxingdui.


RMB 80.00

Guide Service

An English speaking guide is available for RMB 120.00

Sculpture at Sanxingdui Museum Foyer
Sculpture at Sanxingdui Museum Foyer

Read About Sanxingdui on Wikipedia

Sanxingdui () is the name of an archaeological site and its deduced culture in China, now believed to be the site of an ancient Chinese city. The previously unknown Bronze Age culture was re-discovered in 1987 when archaeologists excavated remarkable artifacts, that radiocarbon dating dated as being from the 12th-11th centuries BCE. Leaving behind nothing in the historical record, not even in myth, the unknown culture that produced these artifacts is now known as the Sanxingdui Culture. A museum housing the artifacts is located near the city of Guanghan...

... read the rest of the Wikipedia article

Sanxingdui Museum Has 2 Exhibition Halls

Entrance to Sanxingdui Bronzeware Exhibition Hall
Entrance to Sanxingdui Bronzeware Exhibition Hall

Sanxingdui museum incorporates a solemn display style with an interesting architectural structure. It consists of two Exhibition Halls. Hall one is a sloping building, with a feeling of ecological balance to it. It represents the theme of harmony and balance between society and nature. Hall two is a spiral shaped building, representing both the Three-star Mounds and human historical development.

The display showcased by Sanxingdui museum has been given the title "Ancient City, Ancient State and Ancient Shu Culture". This display consists of two Exhibition Halls, containing 9 sections. The Exhibition Halls are organised as follows:

  1. Hall 1 "Three Stars Accompany the Moon - Brilliant Ancient Shu Civilisation": Comprehensive displays of gold, bronze, jade and pottery artefacts demonstrating continual cultural achievements.
  2. Hall 2 "Three Stars Shine forever - Mysterious Bronze Kingdom": Specialised bronze gallery, with
through successively combination of scenes introduce group of bronze images and mysterious sculptures. Both of them are broad in scale and fine in arrangement, showing great originality. The contents and the display itinerary combine undulately. By means of interesting story-telling, rich knowledge explaining and elegant artistic appreciating, they not only strongly reveal profound connotation of Sanxingdui cultural relics and reflect the brilliance of Sanxingdui civilization, but also distinctly lay out the development course of ancient Shu history and culture.

Site Map of Sanxingdui Archeological Dig

Sanxingdui Site Map
Sanxingdui Site Map

Image: Lamassu Design | CC-by-3.0

Sanxingdui Museum is Organised Into 4 Galleries

Sanxingdui Wood Carving
Sanxingdui Wood Carving

Gallery 1: Splendour of the Ancient Shu Culture

Explores the theme of "three stars accompanying the moon".

Entrance Sign ~ Phases of Shu Culture

"In the vast area of modern Sichuan and neighbouring regions, there are many ancient sites that yielded similar cultural remains. These sites constitute a regional cultural system - the Shu culture. The Shu culture is generally divided into two phases: an early phase, which spans the Xia, Shang and Western Zhou periods (i.e. ancient Shu culture); and a late phase, which covers the Eastern Zhou period (i.e. Ba-Shu culture).

Image: drs2biz, on Flickr.

The Shu cultural sphere is centred in the Chengdu plain. The Sanxingdui culture typifies the early phase of the Shu culture; its development may be divided into four periods, which together span approximately 4800 BP through 2800 BP (2850 BCE through 850 BCE), roughly corresponding to the Longshan culture period through the end of the Shang dynasty and the beginning of the Zhou dynasty period in the Central Plain. Period I belonged to the late Neolithic age. The Sanxingdui culture entered the age of civilization from Period II on.

The Sanxingdui site at Guanghan was a center of the ancient Shu state. The great achievements manifested by the Sanxingdui cultural remains prove that ancient Shu was an important component of Chinese civilization and that it had reached an advanced stage of development at that time".

Sanxingdui Bronze Holy Tree
Sanxingdui Bronze Holy Tree

Gallery 2: Mystery of Their Primitive Faith

The holy tree is the "axis mundi" to heaven

By suggesting the bronze holy tree as a symbol of the cosmic tree, this demonstrates the primitive faith of the ancient Shu people.

Their concept of man within nature as an organic whole, god-man contacts, the worship of the sun and the concept of being in the centre of the world underpinned their belief structure.

The discovery of a variety of tree shapes suggests differences in ritual functions for each. Used in temples as a means of communication with heaven, these bronze trees were an expression of their ancient cosmology.

Image: Sanxingdui Museum

Sanxingdui Heavenly Rooster Crowing to Sun
Sanxingdui Heavenly Rooster Crowing to Sun

Gallery 3: Exquisite Shu Culture Artefacts

Exploring the theme of "forever the soul of Shu"

This section contains some of the most treasured artefacts the museum has to offer to the public. It has around 10 groupings of Chinese National Treasures on display having exceptional artistic and historical value.

Portrait at Sanxingdui
Portrait at Sanxingdui

Gallery 4: Excavation and Study of Sanxingdui

Exploring the theme of "forever Sanxingdui"

Entrance Sign ~ Cultural and Archaeological Connection - Sanxingdui

"For nearly half a century a few generations of archaeologists have made every effort to understand the legacy of Sanxingdui. During mid and late the 1980's several major excavations brought the site into the limelight of the academia of China and the world."

Image: drs2biz, on Flickr.

"The contents displayed of the excavated relics at Sanxingdui are so abundant and so interesting that many scholars have to immerse themselves into this field with full excitement and all heart. The related topics such as the ancient town, the ancient kingdom, the culture and the civilization have been under hot academic discussions. Studies centred on Sanxingdui are becoming a well-known learning attracting more and more students and experts at home and abroad. With the development of fruitful studies the Sanxingdui's discovery would show a wider and more profound influence on both archaeology itself and the study of culture while making a full unfolding of the culture.

This unit includes four groups of materials intending to to give an unequal introduction to the Sanxingdui Site and to offer some basic data associated with the excavations and classifications of it".

N.B. These four units include the impact of the Sanxingdui Relic overseas, the discovery and excavation of the site, the vital position of Sanxingdui Relic in academic study, and a reflection on all facets of the Sanxingdui Relics.

Sanxingdui Human Head With Bird Body
Sanxingdui Human Head With Bird Body

Is this an Ancient Bird God?

This magnificent bronze sculpture has a human head with a bird's body. It stands as sentinel to the entrance of the 2nd display hall, and conjures up images of the ancient civilisation using this as a centrepiece for rituals and ceremonial offerings.

Bronze Heads With Gold Masks: Alien Gods?

Bronze Head Figures With Gold Masks
Bronze Head Figures With Gold Masks

The gold mask was finely made with gold sheet by hammering, and shaping to exactly fit the bronze head figure, and covering the forehead, chin and ears. The earlobes were socketed and the eyebrows and eyes hollowed out. The bronze head figure with gold mask is identical, almost in every detail, to the others without a mask.

The mask was joined to the bronze head by mixing an adhesive of raw lacquer and lime.

The gold mask stuck on the bronze head figure found at Sanxingdui suggests that gold was already valued and worshipped by the ancient Shu people in the Shang Dynasty. In addition to being more beautiful, the gold mask should have some specific functions in religious activities. Is it used to entertain the deities to make the divinity, represented by these head sculptures, more effective? Or is the person, represented by the human head with a gold mask, so-called Fangxiang, who is said to have four gold eyes and mentioned in historic documents?

Are these really depictions of alien gods? It's a mystery.

Heaven's Favourite Son
Heaven's Favourite Son

Heaven's Favourite Son - The Flanged Bronzed Mask with Protruding Pupils

What does this ancient bronze mask depict?

This mask, 82.5 cm in height and 78 cm in width, is U-shaped in cross-section. The pupils and ears were pre-cast. The dragon-shaped flange, measuring 68.1 cm in height, was cast onto the center of the forehead. At the time of excavation, the eyes and eyebrows still retained a black pigment while the lips were painted red. This mysterious mask is one of the most impressive Sanxingdui images. Many archaeological experts have developed theories about what it is supposed to represent and, to this day, there is no consensus on this issue.

The protruding pupils and flange rising above the mask are striking. The eyes of the mask are related to the legend of Cancong, the progenitor of the ancient Shu people. Alternatively, it is proposed that the eyes are the "straight eyes" associated with the God Zhulong. Yet another theory argues that the legends describe a vertical eye in the middle of the forehead.

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