The excavation of Tomb M1001 in Xibeigang was one of the most important discoveries of the fifteen excavations that the Institute of History and Philology (IHP) carried out in Anyang. This enormous royal burial was cross-shaped with four ramps containing more human sacrifices and artifacts than in all other royal burials in Xibeigang. Repeatedly looted and damaged, its original features were beyond recognition. Fortunately, through intensive scientific excavations, archaeologists were able to reconstruct its structure and formation. In addition, the recovery of an astonishing array of exquisitely produced artifacts from looters’ pits provided an unprecedented glimpse of the accomplishments of the Shang civilization. Among all the artifacts unearthed, the marble sculptures have received the highest praise. These include a kneeling anthropomorphic figure with tiger head and claws, a standing owl figure with decorative patterns covering its body, and a remarkable sculpture in the shape of two crouching tigers. Since the IHP began archaeological excavations at the Ruins of Yin during the 1930s, these marble sculptures have become iconic of Shang civilization and artwork.
At present, eight four-ramp tombs, three two-ramp tombs, and one single-ramp tomb have been excavated at the royal cemetery at Xibeigang. The discovery of Tomb M. 1001 was a monumental event, even though we may not be able to determine the time period or the identity of the tomb occupant. In addition to reflecting the material culture and the technological achievements of the time, it also reveals the development of a Bronze Age civilization, the resources owned by the King, the scope of the Shang state, and even the nature of the Shang kingship.
When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, the Institute was compelled to cease the excavation of the Yin Ruins in Anyang; and the Institute was relocated, along with Academia Sinica, several times. Thanks to the archaeologists’ constant care and protection, artifacts and field records from Tomb M1001 and other archaeological sites finally found a permanent home in Taiwan after years of continual relocation. Beginning in 1967, the artifacts from Tomb M1001 were on display in the National Palace Museum and were only returned to the Institute of History and Philology in 2000, not in time to be included in the permanent exhibitions for the reopening of the Museum of the Institute of History and Philology in 2002. It is to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the excavation in Anyang that these precious artifacts once again appear before the general public through this special exhibition.