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A noteworthy introduction to Sanxingdui

By CHENG YUEZHU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-23 09:33

Guo Songlan (right, center) plays the role of Jinwu, a demigoddess who suppresses her human side to safeguard the ancient kingdom of Shu. LI YAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

For millennia the ancient kingdom of Shu remained a mystery, existing only in historical texts, until the Sanxingdui archaeological site in Deyang, Sichuan province, lifted its veil of secrecy.

Despite the fact that the site provided tangible evidence of its historical presence, the enigmatic artifacts drew people even further to contemplate its past — gold masks featuring Sanxingdui's iconic square face and gigantic eyes, jade tablets with intricate carvings, and a bronze tree of around 4 meters tall with birds resting on its branches.

In a recent musical San Xing Dui, a group of artists from home and abroad gave their own version of the kingdom's epic, delivering an audiovisual feast of the over 3,000-year-old Sanxingdui culture with high-tech stage design and exquisite costumes inspired by elements from the archaeological findings.

Two storylines from different eras intertwine in the musical — in the Shu kingdom, a high priest senses an impending catastrophe and gathers artisans to make a sacrificial object; and in modern times, an intern works on the archaeological site reluctantly under the instructions of her father.

"The musical is a story about love, faith, and heritage," says Yu Tingting, producer and Chinese director of the musical.

"We aim to narrate the inheritance of civilization and culture through the concept of a dialogue between the ancient and the modern, highlighting the spirit of craftsmanship featured by contemporary archaeologists."

According to Yu, the development of this musical was initiated in 2021, when a strategic cooperation project was launched to enhance the global reach of Sanxingdui culture through diverse creative forms including exhibitions, TV programs and films, as well as stage performances.

The musical's creation process officially began early this year, and in October, the musical made its premiere in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Since then, it has been on a national tour, with over 20 performances so far, and more due to be staged in cities such as Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and Shanghai.

Even as the musical began touring, the production crew never stopped making refinements. The script alone has undergone more than 50 revisions.

"It's such a difficult story to tell and such an intricate web of characters to present, because we need to respect historical accuracy provided by archaeologists. This production is under constant creation and revision," Yu says.

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