Relics Hall
Introdution to Relics Hall

The Relics Hall

The Relics Hall is semi-circular, with a building area of 7,588 square meters, a height of 19 meters, and a span of 63 meters. The large-space structure without columns ensures the integrity of the sacrificial remains, and the long-span steel structure minimizes the impact of the building on the cultural relic itself, creating favorable conditions for archaeological excavation and cultural relic protection.

Within the architecture is the excavation area of the large-scale sacrificial place of Jinsha site, which is also the best-preserved large-scale sacrificial site in Shang and Zhou dynasties in China.

Located in the east of the Site, the “Sacrificial Area” of Jinsha used to be a dedicated riverside sacrificial site in the ancient Shu state period. Covering an area of around 15,000 square meters, it can be traced back to the times between the late Shang Dynasty and the early Spring and Autumn period (approximately between 1,200 BC and 650 BC). It is distributed along the south bank of an ancient river channel. It is likely that the ancient Shu people carried out sacrificial activities on the river bank at first, and buried sacrificial offerings under the river beach and covered them with soil after the ceremony. The sacrificial offerings would be buried again after the next ritual. After more than 500 years’ sacrificial activities, the river beach was basically filled up by the early Spring and Autumn period. At the same time, with the shift of the political center, this sacred place was gradually deserted.

The Sacrificial Remains

Up to now, this place has witnessed the discovery of more than 60 sacrificial remains, with more than 6,000 precious cultural relics including gold, bronze, jade, stone, bone and horn, and lacquer wood artifacts as well as tons of ivory and numerous wild boar tusks, antlers and pottery unearthed.

Judging from these remains, the sacrificial activities of Jinsha people can be roughly divided into three stages, and each stage and even the ritual objects used in the same stage differ greatly from one another.

1.First stage (around 1,200 BC)

In the first stage, the ritual objects were mainly ivory and stone implements, as well as some pottery, lacquered wooden wares and a very small quantity of jade wares. 

2.Second stage (around 1,100-850 BC)

In the second stage, a large quantity of jade, bronze and gold wares were used as sacrificial offerings. The ivory used in the first stage was still used in great quantity, but stone implements and lacquered wood were rarely used. 

3.Third stage (around 850-650 BC)

The third stage saw extensive use of wild boar tusks, antlers, beautiful stones and pottery, while seeing a sharp decline in the quantity of jade, bronze and gold wares and ivory used in the previous stage.

Sacrifice of Jinsha

In ancient times, social productivity was low and human beings couldn’t make sense of some natural phenomena as well as their life cyvcles, so they believed that “all things have a spirit” and that gods are the masters of the world, which led to the belief that maintaining constant dialogues with them determines national survival and flourishment. Ancient people frequently held sacrificial activities to communicate with the gods of heaven and earth in hope for their protection and blessing.

The large-scale sacrificial site found at Jinsha reproduces the frequency and grandeur of sacrificial events in ancient Shu state. The sacrificial methods and offerings vary depending on the day or season, which indicates the complexity of the cultural system of the ancient state. For example, the Sun and Immortal Birds Gold Ornament conveys the worship of the sun, the gold toad foil represents the worship of the moon, jade ritual vessels such as Bi, Zhang, Ge and Cong express the admiration for heaven and earth and the natural mountains and rivers, and animal-shaped patterns show the love and reverence for wild beasts.

Religious rituals accounts for the most important events of the ancient Shu society. The rich religious style embodied by this site is a complete departure from the ancient capital civilizations in other parts of China, showing distinct regional characteristics. For example, the centralized discovery of large quantities of ivory, wild boar tusks and antlers within the sacrificial area is a singular case among China’s ancient capital ruins.

Introduction to Sites
Relic No.2

Relic No.2 is special since abundant animal remains were excavated on-site, including large elephant tusks, antlers, and wild boars’ lower canines. Apart from these, pieces of jade, stone, and pottery were also found. These objects show that the animal remains were carefully selected for religious activities rather than thrown away randomly by the Shu people. Using wild boars’ lower canines as offerings is the only case nationwide. 

Relic No.8

Relic No.8 is a small oval one. Over 340 pieces of gold, bronze, jade, and stone artifacts have been found here. The most important one among them is the Gold Mask, now displayed in No.4 Exhibition Hall. The remains here date back to the period between the late Shang dynasty and the early Western Zhou dynasty. The display boards show that the cultural relics are placed among five layers of the earth in the pit. These layers differ in the variety and quantity of cultural relics and have much cinnabar scattered in between. 

During another excavation of pit No.8 in early 2007, the invaluable Gold Mask was unearthed. 

Relic No.11

Offerings in relic No.11 were placed in two layers. The upper layer is dominated by 15 entire elephant tusks, all of which are over 1.6m in length with the longest one in 1.85m. Ivory objects, lacquer-woods, and stonewares were buried in the lower layer.

Relic No.18

Here you can see seven square post holes. Another two were destroyed during construction. Post holes are left behind by wooden pillars rotten beneath the earth's surface. Archaeologists identified the existence of ancient architecture while confirming this phenomenon.

Some experts believe that they were originally nine totem posts while others believe that they supported a high roofless altar. However, recent researches show that a stilt house with a roof and long ladders probably existed.

This location was plausibly the core of the entire sacrifice-offering area.

Relic No.1

Relic No.1 is the most orderly-shaped remain with the densest distribution of cultural relics in the entire sacrifice-offering area. The artifacts are placed by layers in the pit, jade and bronze artifacts in lower layers while elephant tusks in the upper eight layers. The orderly-placed tusks with a maximum length of 1.6m constitute a majestic scene. Since no effective measures have been found to protect unearthed tusks, this pit was backfilled. You can see a small mound at a corner, under which a large number of tusks are buried.

Tons of tusk have been found in the area, which is a rare case even worldwide. Experts identified that they belong to the Asian elephant. They were important offerings from the ancient Shu people to their gods. The number of tusk and the way they were offered varied in each sacrificial activity.