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Discoveries in Chinese archaeology

Learn about some of the most prolific archeological sites in China, including the burial complex of the First Emperor of China and Sanxingdui. Learn more about archaeology and the study of ancient China on the Asian Art Museum's education website. Created by Asian Art Museum.

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Video transcript

[Music] over the past 40 years discoveries in Chinese archeology have brought new insights into the beginning of Chinese history the most famous find was made in 1974 when farmers in Xi'an stumbled upon a large underground army guarding the tomb of China's first emperor who died in 210 BC II it revealed more than 6,000 terracotta soldiers they were vibrantly painted and represent the largest ceramic project ever completed other exciting finds include four to six thousand-year-old burials in the far northeast and southeast of China these graves contain finely worked Jade's the Jade's were obviously objects of great prestige not only because of the precious material but also because of the difficulty of working such a hard stone some of the Jade's are decorated with finely engraved faces what these intriguing faces represent remains a mystery in the Shan culture over 3,000 years ago bronze vessels played an important role in rituals it was long thought that no culture of that time could equal the quality and beauty of the bronzes produced by the Shan then much to the surprise of archaeologists two pits were discovered in 1986 in San Cheng lay in Sichuan far removed from the center of Shang civilization but dating to the same period they were filled with elephant tusks and bronzes unlike anything seen or large masks with protruding eyes bronze heads and finally a life-size bronze figure nothing yet is known of the people who made these objects and why they did so another find that surprised archeologists was the tomb of Mark II II discovered in the south of China in 1977 this tomb dating to 433 BCE contained over 22 thousand pounds of bronze objects the most ever found in one place many objects were magical creatures provided to protect Marquis II it is after life groundwater in the tomb had preserved many of the lacquer objects in near-perfect condition providing the first glimpse of the wealth and splendor of this important southern artform this is the tomb of Leo Zhang a hung dynasty prince who died in 113 BCE his tomb shows the shift from the burial of ritual objects to the creation of an eternal home for the dead beautiful lamps provided light incense burners perfumed the air and elegant vessels were provided for food and drink the most remarkable finds however were to Jade suits worn by the dead Prince and his wife it was thought that the Jade suits would protect the deceased [Music] much of ancient Chinese history remains buried who can guess what future amazing discoveries will be unearthed these finds will undoubtedly force us to revise and update our view of Chinese history [Music] you [Music] you