The Sanxingdui Museum, 40km north of Chengdu in Guanghan (广汉), exhibits relics of the Shu kingdom, a cradle of Chinese civilisation dating from 1200 BC to 1100 BC. Some archaeologists regard these artefacts, which include stunningly crafted, angular and stylised bronze masks, as even more important than Xi'an's Terracotta Warriors. Art and anthropology buffs will need at least a half day here, though budding archaeologists may be disappointed by the lack of access to the dig site itself.
Throughout the 20th century, farmers around Guanghan continually unearthed intriguing pottery shards and dirt-encrusted jade carvings when digging wells and tilling their fields. However, war and lack of funds prevented anyone from investigating these finds. Finally, in September 1986, archaeologists launched a full-scale excavation and made a startling discovery when they unearthed the site of a major city dating back to the Neolithic age in the upper reaches of the Yangzi River (Cháng Jiāng). It was previously believed that the oldest civilisations were concentrated around the Yellow River (Huáng Hé).
Buses to the site depart Chengdu’s Xinnanmen bus station (¥50 return, one hour, 9.30am) and return from the museum around 3pm. Alternatively, buses from Chengdu's Zhaojue Si station (¥12, 1½ hours, 7am to 8pm) head to Guanghan's tourist bus station (广汉客运中心) – transfer to local bus 10 (¥2, 6.30am to 8pm) for the remaining 10km to the site. A bus from the site back to Zhaojue Si station leaves at 4.10pm, otherwise buses depart the tourist bus station for Xinnanmen every 10 minutes (¥16, 6.40am to 6.50pm).