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Exhibition to unveil the mysteries of Ancient Shu Kingdom

More than 120 archaeological discoveries unveiling the mysteries of the ancient Shu Kingdom of 3,000 years ago will be on show at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (June 6) until September 9.

The exhibition, "Splendour and Mystery of Ancient Shu - Cultural Relics from Sanxingdui and Jinsha", is jointly presented by the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and organised by the Heritage Museum. It is one of the highlight programmes to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of HKSAR.

Selected from the collections of the Sanxingdui Museum, Chengdu Museum and the Sichuan Provincial Institute of Archaeology, the relics on display include bronze heads, bronze masks, gold sceptre, gold-foil ornaments, jade "cong", jade rings, jade halberds, pottery, seashells and turtle plastron, which reveal the brilliant civilisation that once existed in the ancient Shu region.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (June 5), the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, said the exhibition was organised to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of HKSAR. It provided not only a fascinating insight into the history of the ancient Shu Kingdom, but also helped visitors to understand the diversity and immensity of the Chinese civilisation.

"In 1997, the Hong Kong Museum of Art staged the widely acclaimed 'National Treasures - Gems of China's Cultural Relics' exhibition that featured artefacts finely selected from the discoveries of Sanxingdui site. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has since been maintaining close liaison with the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, hoping to provide the public with yet another opportunity to see more of the brilliant ancient Shu civilisation.

"Through the concerted efforts of both sides, we are now delighted to present to you this long-awaited exhibition in Hong Kong on the occasion of the 10th anniversary, showcasing on a larger scale the remarkable discoveries of Sanxingdui," Dr Ho said.

The discovery of the Sanxingdui site dated back to 1929, but it was not until 1986 that it drew the attention and amazement of the world, when two sacrificial pits were found at the site and a host of artefacts were unearthed, including advanced bronze, gold and jade ware in unique and previously unknown styles.

The advanced civilisation of Sanxingdui disappeared suddenly around the 12th century BC. Recently treasure relics have been unearthed in Baodun, in Jinsha and in Shi'erqiao of the Chengdu Plain, with the gold and jade ware of the Jinsha site being most notable. These relics belong to the same cultural system as Sanxingdui, providing important clues for archaeologists in their quest for the lost civilisation.

Sichuan was known as "Shu" in ancient times. Historical records on the pre-Qin (221-207 BC) Shu state are scarce. According to inscriptions on oracle bones of the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC), there was exchange as well as military clashes between the ancient Shu State and the Shang. Legendary Shu regimes included the Cancong, Baiguan, Yufu, Duyu and Kaiming.

The earliest segment of the Shu culture can be traced back to the Neolithic period (c.7000-1600BC), to the cities of Baodun culture on the Chengdu Plain. By the Shang dynasty, the ancient Shu State had progressed from a confederation of clans to a centralised political unity that was to make up the remarkable Sanxingdui culture. The Sanxingdui site was the political, religious and cultural seat of ancient Shu at the time.

Significant finds unearthed in Sanxingdui include pottery, stoneware, jade, bronze, gold, cowry shells and elephant tusks. The two sacrificial pits in particular stunned the world with the discovery of large numbers of exquisite and singular articles, the likes of most of which had not been found or seen before. These reflect strongly the ancient Shu State's advanced bronze, gold, jade and stone craftsmanship, as well as its unique aesthetic insights and religious beliefs during the Shang period.

Towards the late Shang period, the Sanxingdui city was abandoned in favour of the region where the Jinsha site was recently located which reveals a removal of the capital of ancient Shu from late Shang to the Western Zhou period (1046 - 771 BC).

The discoveries of Jinsha show that the major economic activity of the people at that period was the cultivation of paddy fields, supplemented by fishing and hunting. Handicraft industries were prospering, as shown in the finds at the Jinsha site. There were bronze casting, gold ware processing, jade and stoneware processing, and lacquer ware production. Pottery making techniques were visibly advanced, with most being made with potter's wheel. Typical potteries include vessels with pointed base or with ring foot.

In 316 BC, Zhang Yi and Sima Cuo of the Qin State invaded Shu, which led to its demise. Ancient Shu culture was eventually integrated into Han culture to become part of the Chinese entity.

To tie-in with the exhibition, a series of activities will be organised. A lecture entitled "The Mystery of Ancient Shu" given by the Deputy Director of Excavation Team, Chengdu Institute of Archaeology, Ms Zhang Qing, will be held on June 6 from 2pm to 3pm at the Seminar Room of the museum. A symposium jointly presented by the Heritage Museum and Institute of Chinese Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong will be held on August 19 from 1.30pm to 5.30pm at the Theatre of the museum. Experts from Sichuan and the US will give speeches at the symposium. Conducted in Putonghua, admission to the two activities is free on a first-come-first-served basis. For details and reservation of seats, please contact the Education Team of the museum on 2180 8260.

An audio-guide to the exhibition is available in the gallery and a fully illustrated catalogue is available from the museum's Gift Shop.

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays).

Admission to "Splendour and Mystery of Ancient Shu" exhibition is $20 from Thursday to Monday, and $10 on Wednesdays. A half-price concession is available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, full-time students and people with disabilities.

Car parking is available at the museum. Those who prefer to use public transport can take the KCR to the Che Kung Temple Station, which is five minutes' walk from the museum.

For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the museum's website at .

Ends/Tuesday, June 5, 2007
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