The Deification of Ancient Shu and Sanxingdui Sacrificial Pits


2021-05-12 02:35

Wu Jiabi
Sichuan Cultural Relics

Abstract: According to historical literature, the ancient Shu State comprised two periods: Former Shu and Latter Shu, the period in between was without kingship and lacks written records. The Former Shu went through three phases of kings, namely Cancong, Baiguan and Yufu, while the Latter Shu went through the two phases of Duyu and Kaiming. In terms of archaeological culture, the  Former  Shu  is  equivalent  to  the  Sanxingdui  Culture  during  the  Xia-Shang  period,  and  Latter Shu latter is equivalent to the Ba-Shu Culture in Eastern Zhou dynasty. The image of stork catching fish on the gold scepter discovered in Sanxingdui can be interpreted as Boguan hunting for fish, and the large bronze statue in Boguan’s clothing is an evidence of the reign of Baiguan and Yufu. As  recorded  in  Shu  Wang  Ben  Ji  (“Biographic  Sketches  of  the  Kings  of  Shu”),  “kings  in  all the  three  phases  became  immortal,  followed  by  most  of  their  people”.  When  the  last  generation of  King  Yufu  became  immortal,  he  was  followed  by an  enormous  number  of  people;  when  Duyu made himself King of Shu, “Yufu’s followers came back in large numbers”. The period between Former  and  Latter  Shu  which  lacked  kingship  is  referred  to  as  the  “deification” period.  It  is equivalent to the archaeological culture of Shierqiao.  “Hua min” means edification. The event of the kings leading their people to immortality was the manifestation of a secular regime’s transition into  religious.  Once  flourishing  in  the  plain  area,  the  State  disappeared  and  transformed  into  a kingdom of deities in the mountains. According to the literature, King Yufu became immortal when he went hunting in Jianshan. His path of “deification” should have started from the ancient city of  Sanxingdui,  going  westward  to  the  Tianpengque  Mountain  along  the  Jianjiang  River,  and  then turned north to the valley at the upper reaches of Jianjiang River. Before the deification of an old King of Shu, he held a ritual to burn and bury the sacrificial utensils. Sacrificial pit no.1 dates to the first period of Yin Xu, corresponding to King Baiguan. Sacrificial pit no.2 dates to the second period of Yin Xu (Wuding period), corresponding to King Yufu. They both served as sacrificial pits and utensil pits. Not only material achievements were destroyed during the deification process, but also religious beliefs such as ancestor worship. Losing spiritual support brought the flourishing period  of  ancient  Shu  to  its  end.  The  history  of  ancient  Shu  provides  a  case  for  the  theoretical exploration  of  the  disappearance  of  ancient  civilizations,  that  degeneration  to  a  “Kingdom  of deities”probably resulted in its sudden decline or even extinction.

Key Words: Sanxingdui Culture, Ancient Shu, King Yufu, Deification, Sacrificial pits

The Chinese version appeared in Sichuan Cultural Relics, 2021(01).



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