CHENGDU, China, July 28, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Adjacent to its old exhibition space, the new Sanxingdui Museum in Deyang, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province opened for a trial operation on Thursday, to which an employee surnamed Wen, told the Global Times that a total of 11,000 tickets were sold out in 10 minutes when they were released on Wednesday night.
What makes the new Sanxingdui Museum a blockbuster site is not only housing 600 relics that were exposed to the public first ever, but as a modern building, the museum is empowered with innovative functions that cater to China’s contemporary archaeological progress.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the museum Wednesday, he learned about efforts in historical and cultural heritage inheritance and ecological conservation, the progress in the excavation and research of historical and cultural heritage sites, as well as the protection and restoration of cultural relics.
"Ancient Chinese Legos"
Dubbed as the "origin of the Yangtze River civilization," the Sanxingdui Ruin is an ancient city of the richest shu cultural connotation that has prolific jade, gold and bronze discoveries such as iconic gold masks and a bronze figure sculpture standing over 2 meters tall.
Displaying such artifacts, the new museum houses a total of 1,500 relics, some of which were re-directed from the old Sanxingdui Museum, but almost a quarter number of them have never been shown to the public and are "are still subject to research," Zhu Yarong, the Museum’s deputy director, told the Global Times.
Comparing to visitors-crowded gold artifacts, the Sanxingdui culture’s another brand – bronze pieces – are appearing to be understated. The Bird-Footed Diety Statue and a bronze figure riding a beast, are "mostly unique new items" as they were like "ancient ChineseLegos" that were assembled by bronze components discovered in different Sanxingdui pits, Zeng Yang, a commentator who has six years of experience in the field, told the Global times.
With a big Zun vessel, a type of ancient wine ritual ware, on top, the ‘beast-harnesser’ bronze figure consisting of three parts that were discovered in respectively three different Sanxingdui pits. The earliest one was excavated in 1986 and the latest Pit No.8, where the mythical beast discovered, was excavated from 2021 to 2022.
It is an incredible and almost entirely experienced-based work for Sanxingdui archaeologists to match fragmented puzzles of 36 years of time lag through identifying the shape of those with their damaged fringes.
"Also, the Zun was found full of seashells and jades, this reveals how the shu (lit: ancient Sichuan) people’s unique ritual tradition different from Central Plains’ people around the Shang Dynasty (c.1600BC-1046BC)," Zeng remarked and to refers to Zun discovered in also Shang Ruins, or Yinxu in Central China’s Henan Province.
Including those bronze figures, more than 11,000 cultural relics have been unearthed from the six newly discovered sacrificial pits at the Sanxingdui Ruins, according to data released by the China National Cultural Heritage Administration.
They contribute to plan out Sanxingdui Ruin’s exchanges with other ancient cultures during the same time period.
Yang told the Global Times that other than the Sanxingdui-Yinxu similarity, the jade craftsmanship on Zhejiang Province’s Liangzhu culture also echo Sanxingdui jade designs.
"The development of Chinese civilization was not a straightforward path, this is why we can find the Shu ingenuity making dialogue to the ancient Jiangnan culture," Jia Zhengyu, a Sanxingdui Culture expert, told the Global Times.
Divided into three sections focusing on themes of’Shu people’s spiritual world,’ the show is loaded with relics that made visitors like 10-year-old Dong Yichen who waited online to snap up a rare ticket.
Traveling with his mother from Tianjin, Dong told the Global Times that he found the Sanxingdui relics "so mysterious" and it made him "witness amazing Chinese culture aside of textbooks."
"I love the gold bronze masks and also the tall bronze figure," Dong said referring to the 2.62-meter bronze sculpture discovered in 1986 to become China’s first standing bronze sculpture artifact.
While Dong’s mother said that the "unexpected luck" of getting a ticket of the museum made them reschedule the whole Chengdu trip, Xiao Fengxian, a 73-year-old local who visited the site told the Global Times that she was proud of seeing her local culture to be loved by many people.
"Young people may know this better than me, but I’ve seen images of those relics on the news…They are part of my own history, and that made me happy," Xiao said.
‘A Chinese way to museum’
Jade, gold and bronze, stellar relics indeed overgild the new museum’s cultural characters, yet to become a museum for China’s fast development in archaeology, the new space reflects China’s innovative "archaeological cabinet’ for the first time.
In order to avoid damage to relics freshly removed from the earth, the Sanxingdui archaeological teams have worked in huge sheds covering entire sites with several transparent cabinets covering each pit. With facilities such as automatic catcher for taking out relics, the cabinet has been replicated with the ratio of 1:1 at the museum hall to show how relics been excavated under the controlled humidity and temperature.
Yang told the Global Times that they showed the first time in China, the mechanical cabinet that has been used in archaeological field works.
Other than on-site facilities, the excavation of numerous cultural relics owes much to the utilization of advanced archaeological technologies, including 3D scanning and printing. Duan Yong, vice secretary of the Party Committee of Shanghai University, told the media that the archaeological excavation of the newly discovered sacrificial pits at Sanxingdui can be considered the most technologically advanced in China and even internationally.
Liu Wei, an archeological technician in Wuhan, Central China‘ s Hubei Province told the Global Times that such devices were "adjusted measures to local conditions," but can reveal that China has always been looking for "its own way toimprove museum and archaeology."
Introducing the public with the entire archaeological repertoire, a Cultural Relics Protection, Repair and Exhibition Center, was installed only five-minute walk from the new hall. Though it was opened in 2021, it is the first time the center was renovated with transparent windows that allow visitors to see firsthand how archaeologists handle relics.
"In fact, it is to let the public know more about some stories behind our cultural relics through an open display," Zhu said, adding that she hopes visitors can see Chinese archaeologists’ sense of responsibility for the country’s cultural relics protection.
Aside of the Sanxingdui IP developed cafe called the ‘duiduidui,’ the hall’s cultural creative products section was packed with visitors. One employee telling the Global Times that the Sanxingdui blind box and its bird-shaped doll were the most popular products.
"We want such products to be able to connect to young people, actually all people in a fun and sweet way, this is also how the culture to be continued," she noted.
Covering a total floor area of 54,400 square meters, the museum architecture is unique. Its roof features a sloping earth-covered structure, seamlessly complementing the old museum’s design, resulting in three earth-covered mounds arranged along the central axis. This arrangement embodies the symbolic concept of "stacking three stars," connecting the architectural form to the name of its location, Sanxingdui, which literally means "three stars piling."
The Sanxingdui Museum is a heritage museum, so the new exhibition building needs to "hide" in the ruins instead of standing out from the surrounding environment, Liu Yi, the lead architect of the museum noted.