Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State: Site at Jinsha and Joint Tombs of Boat- shaped Coffins in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province; Site of Sanxingdui in Guanghan City, Sichuan Province 29C.BC-5C.BC
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
Guanghan City and Chengdu City, Sichuan Province
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Sanxingdui Site: N 30°59′38″, E 104°11′58″
Jinsha Site: N 30°41′01″, E 104°00′41″
Joint Tombs of Boat-shaped Coffins: N 30°40′00″, E 104°03′19″
According to legends and historical records, there was once an ancient state called “Shu” located in the enclosed Sichuan Basin in Southwest China. In 316 B.C., the ancient Shu State was conquered by the Qin State and the ancient Shu culture had been buried under the mainstream Central Plain (Zhongyuan) culture, only leaving a few reign titles mentioned in the later literatures and tales. Thus, the reconstruction of the ancient Shu history and culture is heavily relied on archaeological materials and references. Thanks to the important archaeological findings in the sites of ancient Shu, a unique and fascinating civilization, which was entirely different from the Bronze Civilization of the Yellow River Valley, was gradually revealed. The Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is an outstanding representative of the Bronze Age Civilization of China, East Asia and even the world. The nominated Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State consists of Sanxingdui Site, Jinsha Site, and the Great Tomb in the Shangye (commerce) Street, and their natural environment in a total heritage area of 611.3 hectares.
1. Sanxingdui Site
The Sanxingdui Site is located in the west suburb of Guanghan city, in Sichuan Province. With the ancient city as the core, the site covers an area of 600 hectares. This is a large city site existed for a very long time. It had become the cultural center of Bronze Civilization in Sichuan Basin since around 1800 B.C. The city was enclosed by high earthen city walls in an area of 360 hectares with clear function zoning: taking the east-west direction river across the city as the central line, in the north large palaces were built on the earthen terrace, in the south was the religious area symbolized by sacred temples, while in the northwestern suburb were the tombs. Great changes took place in around 1200 B.C.: temples were buried down and vessels in the temples were damaged and buried, which could be proven by more than 6,000 pieces of valuable cultural relics unearthed from the two sacrificial pits.
2. Jinsha Site
Located in the west of Chengdu city, the site covers 11 hectares centering the religious and sacrificial area. The site emerged after Sanxingdui in 1200 B.C. and was abandoned in around 650 B.C. The layout of function zoning is similar to that of Sanxingdui ancient city: a west-east river cuts the site into the south and north parts. The palaces were located in the north part and the religious and sacrificial area were in the south. In the west of these two parts, there were populace’s residential areas and the tombs. The religious and sacrificial area was about 1 hectare where a tall wooden sacrificial building has been revealed and over 6000 valuable cultural relics have been unearthed from more than 60 remains of ritual objects. The excavated cultural relics are surprisingly similar to those from Sanxingdui Site in terms of category and style. A large amount of sacrificial objects are buried under the religious and sacrificial area and needs further protection.
3. Joint Tombs of Boat-shaped Coffins
Located in the central part of Chengdu city, the nominated area is about 0.3 hectare centering the tomb. This is a large tomb with 17 coffins of different sizes dated back to 400 B.C. The tomb pit is in rectangular shape measured 30.5 meters long, 20.3 meters wide and 2.5 meters deep. The bottom of the pit is paved by wood slabs bearing a large boat-shaped coffin of the occupant and smaller coffins in other shapes. All coffins are made of single trunks of trees. The largest boat-shaped coffin is 18.8 meters long and 1.5 meters wide and contains a large number of valuable cultural relics. Above the tomb there are magnificent architectures measured 38.5 meters long and 30 meters wide and consisting the front and rear parts. The rear chamber covers the tomb symbolizing the residence of the dead; the front chamber stuck out of the tomb representing the work place of the tomb owner and the ancestral temple for later generations. It is the earliest physical evidence for Chinese mausoleum system known as “temple in the front and residence in the rear”. Around the tomb, several similar large graves are found underground. According to study on unearthed objects, this is a tomb of the royal family of the ancient Shu State. After Shu was conquered by Qin State, the tomb, just like Sanxingdui Site and Jinsha Site, was long forgotten till they were discovered today.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The site of ancient Shu is an outstanding representative of the Bronze Civilization of the Yangtze River Valley of China. It was the result of the interaction and integration of multiple cultures, and possesses a remarkable significance in the civilization and history of East Asia and the world.
Ancient Shu people were adapted to and made use of the special natural and geographical environment of Chengdu Plain, on the basis of indigenous culture, integrated and recreated outcomes of civilizations from the Yellow River Valley, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and other parts of China to form a distinctive and highly developed Bronze Civilization and left us with physical evidence for the vanished history, tradition and civilization of ancient Shu State. The discovery unveils the mysterious and distinctive ancient Shu State which was different from the civilization in the Yellow River Valley and had a complete development timeline. The Sanxingdui Site, Jinsha Site and Joint Tombs of Boat-shaped Coffins are the representatives of ancient Shu’s historical evolution. The urban planning and the unearthed relics of the ancient Shu State explain the primitive view on the universe and religion which were one of the sources of Chinese urban planning philosophy of “observing heaven and earth”, of the early diverse ideology and culture, and of the following Taoism.
Criterion (i): The Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is the quintessence of ideology, culture and arts of ancient Shu State in the Bronze Age. The city layout reflects the unique urban planning concept, spatial sense and social structure of ancient Shu State. The religious buildings and unearthed cultural relics explain the view on the universe of ancient Shu people, how they pursue supernatural power and their plastic arts. All these are masterpieces of ideology and arts of the Bronze Age demonstrating the contributions and creation of ancient Shu people in philosophy and world view.
Criterion (ii): The Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is a typical representative of the Bronze Civilization of the Yangtze River Valley during 1900 B.C.-400 B.C. The civilization is a unique and highly developed Bronze Civilization in a unique geographic area of Sichuan Basin as a result of integration and recreation of civilizations of the Yellow River Valley, lower and middle reaches of Yangtze River and other adjacent areas on the basis of indigenous culture of ancient Shu people. The unique characteristics had been long maintained till the conquest by Qin State and had certain influences on the civilizations of China and East Asia.
Criterion (iii): The Shu State Before the Qin Dynasty (221B.C---206B.C.) was an ancient state seen in historical literatures and tales. It created its unique history and tradition in the lengthy process of development which gradually faded away with subjugation of the Shu State by the Qin State. Sanxingdui Site and Jinsha Site and Joint Tombs of Boat-shaped Coffins introduce the resplendence of the Bronze Civilization of ancient Shu State and provide physical evidences for the history, tradition and civilization of the vanished ancient Shu State.
Criterion (v): The Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is an outstanding example of adaptation to and utilization of Chengdu Plain in the west part of Sichuan Basin by people of the ancient Shu State. Land development, flood control, water conservancy and city site selection show intelligence and talent of the ancient Shu people and represent the different development stages of ancient Shu Civilization. Due to use of traditional East Asian building materials such as earth and woods which are vulnerable to the impact of natural force and human activities, in the process of modernization and urbanization, the sites are increasingly endangered and joint efforts are required to resist the threat.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Archaeological excavations and studies by experts from various fields both domestic and abroad have proven that the age and value of the Site are true and credible and generally acknowledged in the world. Archaeological survey, investigation and excavation show that there are still plentiful cultural remains under the nominated area. The underground remains, the city walls of Sanxingdui Site and the foundations of some important architecture above the ground are well preserved with little artificial intervention. The historical remains preserve the significant features of ancient Shu Civilization during 1900 BC-400 BC such as city layout and structure, palace areas, primitive religious and sacrificial areas and funeral custom of the royal family. Archaeological study was conducted by personnel of various professions organized by professional archaeological and scientific research institutions, strictly following the Regulations on Field Archaeology of the People’s Republic of China and applying multiple testing instruments to reveal the historical facts as could as possible. Measures such as underground sealing up and protective exhibition were taken in revealed important remains for maximum protection of the authenticity. Movable cultural relics unearthed were protected by applying both traditional and modern technologies to ensure the authenticity of materials and techniques pursuant to the identifiable and re-treatable principle. Museums of Sanxingdui Site and Jinsha Site are simple contemporary buildings located at the buffer zone where there are not cultural remains in order to be distinguished from the property and avoid impact on the authenticity. Joint Tombs of Boat-shaped Coffins has been backfilled. To sum up, the Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State has a very high degree of authenticity.
In the nominated area, important characteristics such as the city layout and structure, palace areas, primitive religious and sacrificial areas and funeral custom of the royal family as well as important remains and objects showing the value are well preserved, and the principal parts of the property have good condition of integrity. The rivers based on which Sanxingdui Site and Jinsha Site were built kept their naturally winding status, and the function zoning split by rivers remain unchanged; the multiple coffins and ground architectures of the Grand Tomb in the Shangye Street are intact. Integrity of the principal parts of the three nominated sites is well preserved. The nominated heritage area and buffer zone of Sanxingdui Site remain the traditional village landscape; the nominated heritage area of Jinsha Site, though has become part of the city, is the green space and an archaeological park now, and buildings in its buffer zone are typical residential houses of west Sichuan Province; the nominated heritage area of Joint Tombs of Boat- shaped Coffins is covered by greenery despite its location in city center, and the height of buildings and depth of foundations in the buffer zone do not threaten the property. To sum up, the Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State has a high degree of integrity.
Comparison with other similar properties
Among the sites on the World Heritage List or Tentative List, and similar to the Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State, we chose representative Bronze Civilizations—Yin XuRuins at the Yellow River Valley in East Asia and Nineveh Site in Iraq of West Asia for comparison.
The conclusion is: the Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is the only one so far in the world that has both unique cultural features and cultural elements of the Bronze Civilization of the Yellow River Valley, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and possibly the Mesopotamian Civilization in West Asia. None of the sites inscribed on the World Heritage List can evidently represent the interchange and convergence of Bronze Civilizations from East Asia and West Asia. The Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is an example of integration of multiple civilizations with native civilization and a unique civilization system of ancient Chinese civilization. The Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State is an outstanding representative of the Bronze Civilization of the Yangtze River Valley in East Asia. As an important part of River Civilizations in the world, it reached a high level and played a significant role in the evolution of ancient civilizations and rivals other ancient human civilizations of the world.