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Relics reveal the mystery of Dian Kingdom
Latest Updated by 2005-03-10 10:35:47

Ancient relics from the Dian Kingdom in Yunnan Province in Southwest China are on show at the Shenzhen Museum until April 15.

Among the 118 relics on display, 21 items are classified as first-class cultural relics, including a bronze table with figurines of a tiger and oxen, the only bronze coffin from the Chinese Bronze Age preserved intact and a jade costume of the king of the Dian Kingdom.

"The exploration into the Dian Kingdom since the 1950s is of great significance to the study of ancient Chinese civilization," said Dai Zongping, deputy curator of the Yunnan Provincial Museum.

The culture of the Dian Kingdom can be traced back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). It thrived in the eastern and central areas of Yunnan Province for about 500 years until the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220).

The set of tombs at Lijiashan, a mountainous village in Jiangchuan County south of Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is a kingdom of bronze and the key to the mysteries of the Dian Kingdom.

In the early 1920s, Lijiashan villagers would occasionally find odd pieces of bronze and jade in the surrounding hills after rainwater washed over the slopes.

Since 1955, excavation work and investigations have uncovered more than 30 ruins in Yunnan including Lijiashan.

The unearthed relics show that agriculture was quite developed in the Dian Kingdom, though hunting was still a popular activity.

Less influenced by the traditional style of bronze ware from the Shang (about 1600-1100 B.C.) or Zhou (about 1100-221 B.C.) dynasties, the Dian people were creative in artistic design and expression.

Many Dian bronze pieces are decorated with hunting scenes, such as hunting parties going after ferocious beasts, deer hunters on horseback or men fighting animals with their bare hands.

The Dian people believed "every living thing has a spirit." Religious rituals were highlighted by sacrificing oxen and humans, as well as musical performances.

These scenes frequently appear engraved on buckles and cowry containers. With grand ceremonies hosted by sorcerers, oxen were killed and offered to gods.

Today, many people know the Chinese idiom of the "arrogant King of Yelang," describing someone who is full of ludicrous conceit.

However, they may not know that the King of Yelang was just repeating the words of the king of Dian.

Neighboring the Dian Kingdom, the ancient Yelang Kingdom is a part of Guizhou Province. Because of isolation, the Dian and Yelang kings did not know their respective regions were only similar to a prefecture of the Han Dynasty.

When an envoy from the Han first went to the Dian Kingdom, the king of Dian asked arrogantly: "Comparing the Han with Dian, which kingdom is bigger"

When the envoy visited the Yelang Kingdom, the king of Yelang asked the same question and thus earned a reputation for arrogance.

In 1955, researchers discovered another set of tombs for royalty and aristocrats at Shizhaishan in Jinning County, not very far from Lijiashan.

One of the tombs contained a golden seal bearing four Chinese characters carved in official Han court scripts translated as "The Seal of the Dian King."

The golden seal shows that the king of the Dian attached great importance to having the Han emperor bestow upon him royal titles.

But by the end of the first century, the Dian Kingdom lost control of its local people and was absorbed into the Han Dynasty.

As a highlight of the exhibition, the gold seal is also on display in the Shenzhen Museum.

Editor: Catherine

By:Newman Huo Source:szdaily web edition
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