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Brazen heights

(China Daily)

10:31, April 03, 2012

A sculpture of Simuwuding, one of the country's most famous bronze antiques, stands in front of Yinxu's Archeological Museum. (Photo: China Daily)

In Shang Dynasty, bronze was the most valued metal - a metaphor of power and artistic achievement. Liu Xiangrui and Li Yuefeng visited the palace ruins in Yinxu, Henan province, to find out more.

For a history fan like me, forever pining for a vivid vision of ancient life and culture, going down the passage leading to Yinxu's Archeological Museum was a chance to connect with what lay buried in the past, quite literally.

The museum was built under the earth, so as to not tamper with the natural landscape above it. Walking into it felt like traveling back in time. I suddenly found myself surrounded by antiques from more than 3,000 years ago.

The ruins of the palaces of late Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) in Yinxu offer a unique and overwhelming view of the ancient kingdom and its society. Numerous relics and the imperial tombs were unearthed here.

Yinxu, in Anyang city, Henan province, is today a lush green field, dotted by structures built on the lines of ancient architecture. The landscape hardly indicated that this was where luxurious palaces stood. For some 255 years this used to be a thriving capital city.

It was only after the excavations, begun in the 1920s - about 3,000 years after the palaces were burnt down when the kingdom lost a critical war - that people's curiosity about this lost kingdom was reignited. Yinxu relics were listed as a World Cultural Heritage in 2006.

Walking into the museum, I was immediately taken by the variety of bronze wares - weapons, sacrificial vessels, musical instruments and artistic ornaments. A lot of these displayed delicately carved, mysterious emblazonry.

Unlike ancient Egyptians who fancied gold, people living in the Shang period cherished bronze wares.

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