If the Sanxingdui culture is part of your syllabus this semester, chances are that your instructor may give you a research assignment to help you better understand this mysterious, long-forgotten civilization. However, if you delay working on your assignment, you may be too hassled to begin coming up with a more specific topic. This is especially true if you have to write an info-packed expository essay. Luckily, we are here to help.
If you are having trouble with expository essay topics on this culture, we have a list of 20 relevant and interesting topics you can explore and write about.
If you like a topic from this list, check out the 12 facts on Sanxingdui culture for an expository essay for a few facts to add to your essay and make it a great read. If you need guidance on how to write an expository essay, you can refer to our guide on how to write an expository essay on Sanxingdui culture.
Excavations in the Sanxingdui, Sichuan province of China brought to light a previously unknown ancient culture, now called the Sanxingdui culture. The experts who studied the site have estimated that this culture flourished circa 2050-1250 BC. Its people were a sophisticated bronze-using civilization and had a semi-Chinese culture which was previously unknown. The discovery is considered important because it added a thousand years to the history of the Sichuan basin. The chain of history of the Sichuan province now stretches unbroken from the Neolithic to Han. The finding also has far reaching implications in the study of Shang and early Zhou dynasties of ancient China.
The Sanxingdui site lies on the western banks of the Mamu River. The total area of the site is over ten square kilometers. The discovery of the site was apparently quite accidental. A farmer discovered jade artifacts in 1929 while digging a well. Efforts were made to expand the excavation, but nothing was found until 1986. It was quite a significant archeological find as two large sacrificial pits filled with offerings were unearthed.
The first pit discovered, called Pit no. 1, lies beneath a stratum. The stratum is probably old enough to belong to the middle of the Shang period. The pit itself is about 4.6 meters in length, 3.5 meters wide, and lies at a depth of 1.6 meters. Shallow trenches enter three sides of the rectangular pit.
The second pit lies about 30 meters south of the first pit. It is 5.3 meters long, 2.3 meters wide, and 1.5 meters deep. It is about a generation or so later than the first pit. According to experts, Pit no. 1 probably belongs to Yinxu 1, and Pit no. 2 to Yinxu 1 or 2. (Yinxu 1 and 2 time periods correspond to the first half of the Anyang period.)
The contents of the first pit were remarkable both in number and design. Over 300 objects were discovered, all of which were made from gold, jade, bronze, and stone. Also found were cowry shells, elephant tusks, and pottery. Moreover, the pit contained charred animal bones and wood ash. All other artifacts showed signs of burning, indicating that the pit was used for religious sacrifices.
The second pit contained 400 different objects that were even more remarkable than the one discovered in the first pit. All of them were burned before being buried and have sadly suffered significant damage. The objects discovered include a gold mask, ornaments of gold foil, jade objects, tusks, shells, bronze vessels, bronze faces, bronze heads, and bronze animals. The most unique artifact is a life-sized bronze statue of a man, which is said to be a representation of the shaman who presided over the sacrificial offerings.
The sacrificial rituals of this culture are unlike anything yet discovered in Chinese archeology. Though they vaguely resemble the rituals of the Shang court, the practice of burning sacrificial offerings is quite unique in the history of the region. These sacrifices were made to the natural gods these people worshipped, including earth, heaven, mountains, and trees. The religion also centered on the worship of ancestors as many artifacts seem to have been ‘sacrificed’ to appease the spirits of long gone family members.
It is clear from the size of the pits that sacrifice and religion played a large role in the lives of these ancient people. The artifacts discovered merit more detailed study in order to reveal the larger context and implication of this fascinating culture. Unfortunately, the site does not contain inscriptions or texts of any sort. The objects are our only source of information. Since religion influenced their daily lives significantly, understanding the importance of the pits and the objects found inside them will lead to a better understanding of the Sanxingdui culture.
Since you can definitely come up with a better piece, get started with the resources you have and write a great expository essay on this unique civilization to get a great grade.
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Wang, Y. (2010). Bronze age China. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub.
Watson, W. (1952). Bronze Axes of Ancient China. The British Museum Quarterly, 16(4), 104. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/4422351 http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/204705814×13975704318038
Spencer, C., & Hammond, E. (1964). Ancient China. New York: John Day.
Hua, S. (2013) The Sanxingdui Culture of the Sichuan Basin, in A Companion to Chinese Archaeology (ed A. P. Underhill), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118325698.ch8
Keightley, D. (1978). Sources of Shang history. Berkeley: University of California Press.. http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/204705814×13975704318038
Liu, Y., & Capon, E. (2000). Masks of mystery. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.