Beijing, 3 February 2013

A few weeks ago, I went to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan. I was visiting a company that makes an interesting energy conservation technology, details about which I won’t bore you with. I also visited a company that makes graphite electrodes for electric arc furnaces; again, I won’t bore you with details. And of course, as is usual, the local authorities put on a banquet for me, at which I politely ate the local, horribly spicy food (see my earlier rant about spices to know how I feel on this topic). But when all else has faded from my mind, what will remain with me is a visit to the Sanxingdui Museum, some 40 km to the north of Chengdu.

Before going there, I knew nothing about the museum or the historical Ba-Shu culture on which it is based. I was just told that the museum was very interesting and asked if I would like to visit it. If I can, I never disappoint my hosts, and anyway being a bit of a museum rat I’m always glad to visit a museum. So of course I heartily agreed to the proposal.

But I was totally unprepared for what met me when I got there.

Bronze head-1

Bronze head-5

Bronze head-7

Bronze head-10

These strange, strange bronze heads, sometimes also in groups and overlain in gold

Bronze head-3- 3 heads

Bronze head-13-many heads

Like this gentleman, I was gobsmacked by these heads

man looking at mask

There are other enigmatic heads around the world. Easter Island heads and Olmec heads from Mexico come to mind.

easter island heads


But these Ba-Shu heads take the biscuit. It’s the eyes that are so strange, they’re not human at all. Link that to those thin, thin lips with that slight smile playing on some of them and you have a really sinister-looking face. I have to say that my first reaction was “extraterrestrials!”. Foolish, of course, but I could well imagine a movie where beings looking like this step off the mother ship in front of groveling earthlings.

bronze statue-3

But it gets stranger. Take a gander at these

Bronze head-11-protruding eyes-3

bronze head-15-protruding eyes-4

What is one to make of those rods in the eyes? The museum literature suggests that these could be rays emanating from the eyes. To my overheated imagination, they look nothing more like sticks rammed into the being’s eyes and his masochistic delight at this treatment.

For the historically inclined, I should mention that these finds have been dated to a period 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, that for reasons unknown the civilization disappeared from view and from the historical record, only to resurface in 1986 after a farmer was doing some digging in his fields.

Well, it’s clear. The beings decided to go back to wherever they came from, probably after promising that they would be back …


Bronze head-1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bronze_head_from_Sanxingdui.JPG
Bronze head-2: http://images.yangtzeriver.org/attraction/chengdu/sanxingdui-museum-in-guanghan/sanxingdui-museum-in-guanghan3.jpg
Bronze head-3: http://data.travelchinaguide.com/photo/chengdu-sanxingdui-museum.jpg
Bronze head-4: http://www.mychinatours.com/images/attraction/chengdu/sanxingdui-museum-in-guanghan/sanxingdui3.jpg
Bronze head group-1: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Sanxingduimasks.jpg
Bronze head group-2: http://www.chinesetimeschool.com/Portals/2/cms/images/201206/634753526083340000.jpeg
Man looking at head: http://p3.img.cctvpic.com/program/cultureexpress/20100705/images/1278294852929_1278294852929_r.jpg
Easter Island heads: http://www.philipcoppens.com/easterisle01.jpg
Olmec head: http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/56/4556-004-1703C415.jpg
Bronze head with protruding eyes-1: http://peripatetickiwi.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/imgp1405.jpg
Bronze head with protruding eyes-2: http://jessiechophotos.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Day3-206.jpg

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I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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