Exquisite bronze vessels from the mysterious Dian Kingdom of China
The Provincial Museum in Kunming houses an extraordinary, startling collection of bronze and iron castings found south of Lake Dian Xi in Yunnan. They were found and excavated in 1953-1960 in graves at two locations: Lijiashan and Shizhaishan. The Lijiashan findings date back to the late 6th to 3rd century, those in Shizhaishan between the 3rd and 1st century BCE. The culture is the same in both places.
Very little is known about the Dian Kingdom except that a Chinese royal seal from the Western Han Dynasty (2nd century BCE to 1st century CE) was found and that the Dian Kingdom is mentioned in Chinese documents of the same time. It is evident from the archeological material, some of which is presented here, that this culture was not Chinese. Indications are that their inventive forms have connections with the steppe cultures of Central Asia and possibly with the Sassanian Empire in Iran.
Photos from an exhibition catalogue: Albert Lutz, Dian, Ein versunkenes Königreich in China, Museum Rietberg Zürich, 1986.