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Probably everyone knows the Terracotta Army of Xi’an. The painted warriors and horse-drawn chariots from the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi are world-famous, and there are often traveling exhibitions to Germany and other countries. The discovery fits perfectly into the image that China would like to convey to the outside world, as it reflects a powerful empire under one ruler.
Far less famous are the finds at the Sanxingdui ruins. They are believed to be the remains of the Shu Kingdom, which was at least 4,800 years old and existed for more than 2,000 years. However, these discoveries also challenge the image of a unified Chinese identity, writes Fabian Peltsch. Nonetheless, President Xi Jinping is personally pushing for the recognition of Sanxingdui as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After all, the national myth of a diverse and peace-loving trading partner fits well with China’s narrative in the era of the New Silk Road.
Different narratives about how the world should best function are also evident at G7 and BRICS. The alliances held summits at the end of June. Frank Sieren looked at the final declarations of the two events and concludes: The G7 is on the defensive in some respects, while the BRICS countries argue in a more inclusive manner. That is one view. Because it also shows: The BRICS declaration lacks substance because it represents a minimal compromise. The G7, however, stands surprisingly united.
Sanxingdui: ‘Archaeology with Chinese characteristics’
The archaeological discoveries of Sanxingdui resemble something out of a surreal horror movie: Gigantic, boxy heads. Creatures with stalk eyes. Hybrid beings with snake bodies and bird legs. On top of that, a four-meter-tall bronze tree, with mysterious birds perched on its branches. These dramatically illuminated artifacts can be admired at the Sanxingdui Museum in the northeastern part of the excavation site, about 40 kilometers from Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu.
A mysterious culture sank them some 3,000 years ago in eight sacrificial pits, six of which have been uncovered since their discovery in the mid-1980s. At the end of March, archaeologists presented more objects to the public, including an altar and a chest in the shape of a turtle shell. “Spectacular finds,” as Prof. Dr. Maria Khayutina, a sinologist and expert on pre-imperial China at LMU Munich, tells China.Table. “Unfortunately, the Western world is quite uninterested in discoveries outside its cultural sphere. What is not familiar is often simply ignored.”
In China, on the other hand, live coverage of the excavations was broadcast for days this spring. Sanxingdui has long been part of local pop culture. At this year’s CCTV New Year’s Gala, the largest television event in the world, a choreography with Sanxingdui holograms was performed. On Chinese e-commerce sites, sneakers with Sanxingdui motifs can be purchased, and T-shirts, pen holders, popsicles, and emojis are also available in the shape of the distinctive bronze heads. In 2016, China’s movie industry even announced a blockbuster co-produced by US star director James Cameron, in which a visitor from a foreign land learns about Sanxingdui culture. The leading role in “The Guest of Sanxingdui” is to be played by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was also signed on as an international ambassador for the archaeological site.