2000 BC - 1000 BC

The Faces OF SANXINGDUI

Sanxingdui Museum

“Sanxingdui Bronze Sculptures and Figures”
Sanxingdui Museum/Aug. 2014

Usually most of the bronzes are vessels, instruments or weapons, but Sanxingdui is apparently an exception. These masks of similar style discovered in Sanxingdui distinguish themselves from others. They all have exaggerated facial features and dignified facial expressions. It might be a way for Ancient Shu people to memorialize their ancestors or gods. This mask is the biggest one found in Sanxingdui. Its protruding eyes are considered as the symbol of 'Can Cong', the first group of leaders in Ancient Shu.

Although they are  called mask, but they are too big to wear on human faces for most of those mask are more than one meter wide. The square-shaped holes on each side might suggest it used to be decoration of a certain large architecture such as pillar. 

This mask is fabricated with delicacy and is very well preserved. In this mask we can all characters of Sanxingdui faces: knife-shaped eyebrows, protruding eyes in triangle shape, big streching ears with ear holes, snub nose and fine mouth.

This is a small-sized mask, probably for it used to decorate a small pillar. His eyebrows and eyes are painted in black and mouth in red. It is not common to paint bronzes in the same era of China, but Sanxingdui has quite a few cases. 

Unlike masks, the heads are sculptures in the round and hollow inside. It is possible that there used to be mud or wood body. Those heads have almost the same style as the masks with a longer face. So we cannot tell whether the heads used to wear masks or the masks copied the style of heads. This item's eyebrows and eyes are painted in black, and its ears, nose, and mouth are painted in red. Its hair is tied at back with accessory. 

Sanxingdui heads all look alike, but they differ in haircut and head shape. Some scholars think they might represent different races or identities, but there is no compelling evidence to prove this assumption. This head is wearing a braid-shaped hair band. It is also uncommon that each ear has three ear holes.

Its facial features are softly modeled and still keep Sangxingdui faces' basic characteristics. There should be some decorations at the top. The bottom is also missing. 

All of Sanxingdui's bronze heads and masks are discovered from two  excavation pits where all the artifacts have been burnt and smashed by human beings. This could be a special way of worshiping or the damage conducted by enemy. There is still no final conclusion yet.

57 heads are excavated from Sanxingdui and only four of them  are decorated with gold foil which means that the owners of these four items were very wealthy and powerful. The gold foil was glued to the surface of the head with material made of lime and lacquer and is therefore easy to fall off. The gold foil of the head is 85% pure.

It's single-side bronze slice. The man kneels down, facing ahead with his hands on legs. He might be in a certain worship ceremony. There are little holes on his feet, which suggests originally it should be set up on the surface of a certain object. 

The size, crown and clothes of this item are the same as the previous one. Olnly the gesture is different. It might be a different individual in the same ceremony. 

This man kneels down on a moutain-shaped pedestal with a Zun on his head. Zun is a bronze wine vessel and is one of the most important artifacts in the ancestor worship ceremony. This man should be in a ancestor worship ceremony.

This is the most special one among all figures. Its haircut, clothes, facial expression and pose are all unique. But it still facial features still have Sanxingdui characteristics. Some scholars think originally he should be riding on something.

It's a tall sculpture with its height reaching 2.65 meters. The figure is standing on a elephant-head base and is wearing a gorgeous dress and beautiful crown. But its face is of no big difference with other figures. 

The bottom part of this figure is missing. It should be standing originally. Kneeling down and standing could be two most important poses in ancestor worship ceremony in Sanxingdui. The crown of this man is the head of a beat with front part missing. The man's face is still typical Sanxingdui Style.

This is a pedestal of a bronze tree sculpture with three men kneeling on it.  The shoulders of these three men are all missing, but they still have the facial features mentioned in the previous item. We can see that all the faces of sanxingdui share the same characteristics, no matter what poses they have, where they are placed, or what they are wearing.

Credits: Story

资料提供 — 于惠东

Credits: All media
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