2023 Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture on Chinese Art and Archaeology

Sanxingdui: Discovery of a Lost Bronze Age Civilization

First presented in 1982, the Sammy Yukuan Lee Lectures on Chinese Art and Archaeology honors the life and philanthropy of Sammy Yukuan Lee.

Saturday, November 4, 2023
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Lenart Auditorium - Fowler Museum

RSVP Here for Reception

The history of the Bronze Age in the wider region of Southwest China has hardly been systematically and adequately recorded in the any historical literature. Since the 1930s, archaeologists have focused on the Sanxingdui site in Sichuan Province as a key to this problem. In particular, two major archaeological excavations of the sacrificial area of the Sanxingdui site in 1986 and 2021 unearthed extremely large quantities of bronze, jade, gold artifacts and elephant tusks. These artifacts are of peculiar shapes and include a number of remains rarely seen in East Asia, such as sacred trees, bronze altars, large human figures and gold masks. The ancient remains found at the Sanxingdui site show us that an ancient civilization once flourished in the Sichuan Basin from about 1700 BC to 1050 BC. The exquisite artifacts of the Sanxingdui civilization demonstrate a high level of artistic design and craftsmanship of bronze, gold and jade products. At the same time, these artifacts collectively seem to reflect a socio-political and religious system different from that civilization of the Central Plain during the same period. The important archaeological discoveries at Sanxingdui once again highlight the rich diversity of the developmental trajectory of the early civilizations in diverse geographical and cultural background.


Zhao Hao is an Associate Professor at the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Peking University from 2004 to 2011, and his Ph.D. degree in archaeology from Stanford University in 2017. He was awarded the annual dissertation prize by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in 2019. His main areas of research are Bronze Age archaeology and handicraft archaeology. He has participated in the field excavation and research of important archaeological sites such as the Western Zhou bone workshop site at Yuntang, the Eastern Zhou bronze foundry at Guanzhuang and the Proto-Qin culture site at Dabaozi. Since the February 2021 to the present, he has been leading the Peking University archaeological team to participate in the excavation of the Sanxingdui site in Guanghan, Sichuan Province, and has been mainly in charge of the field excavation and research of the sacrificial pit No. 8.


Rowan Flad 傅羅文 is John E. Hudson Professor of Archaeology at Harvard University. His research focuses on the emergence and development of complex society during the late Neolithic period and the Bronze Age in China. He has conducted excavations at a salt production site in the eastern Sichuan Basin and a regional survey in the Chengdu region focusing on prehistoric settlement patterns and social evolution. Recent research has focused on the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age in southern Gansu and bias in media coverage of archaeology. Research and writing projects focus on several aspects of social complexity including: specialized production and technology, the anthropology of value, mortuary analysis, archaeological landscapes, interregional interaction, cultural transmission, animal and plant domestication, osteomantic divination practices, and bias in the practice of archaeology.

About Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture Series
First presented in 1982 in celebration of his 80th birthday, the Sammy Yukuan Lee Lectures on Chinese Art and Archaeology honors the life and philanthropy of respected businessman, art collector, and Chinese art authority, Sammy Yukuan Lee. The Friday Seminar series began in 2013 to allow for more in-depth discussions between the speakers and the students and faculty members. This series is presented annually by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies with support from the Sammy Yukuan Lee Foundation, and in partnership with the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

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Published: Sunday, October 1, 2023