Replicating the past: Father-daughter team’s school project using leftover clay to produce mask resembling 3,000-year-old artifact goes viral in China


A father-daughter art project in which the two constructed remarkable clay replicas of 3,000-year-old bronze objects from Sanxingdui in southwest China has attracted more than three million views on Weibo since its publication on Sunday..

The pair made two replicas, one of a beautifully crafted ding – a cauldron-like vessel – and a copy of one of the masks that became world famous. The two used cardboard to build the structure, then added clay and paint for the details.

Artifacts unearthed at Sanxingdui have turned the site into one of China’s most significant archaeological finds in decades. The announcement last year of perfectly preserved gold masks has fundamentally changed the way scientists view the earliest cultures to have lived in China thousands of years ago.

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The young girl, a 4th grade student, had initially asked her mother for help to complete the project. But the 41-year-old mother, surnamed Zhao, told Wutong video, a news platform in mainland China, that she “had no idea how to complete the mission”.

“I asked his dad for help and he said, ‘the square ding should be easy to do with boxes’.”

“My daughter found the patterns online and because the left and right side patterns [of the ding] are relatively simple, she kneaded it with clay herself, while her father kneaded the Sanxingdui mask pattern on the front of the ding,” Zhao said.

However, the construction of the mask became more than a duty, but rather a way to spend time together as the family spent most of their time at home in Nanjing, the capital of eastern Jiangsu province. of China, as the city attempts to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19. The province reported seven asymptomatic cases on Monday.

Nanjing is not on lockdown, but many public places – such as libraries, museums and entertainment businesses – have been closed since March 16. Face-to-face classes have also been suspended, although the city is gradually resuming classes.

Stuck at home, Zhao remembered that they still had leftover clay bags from making the ding.

“It would be a shame to throw them away, so the two of them thought of making a bronze mask,” Zhao said. “My daughter is very interested in bronze objects and my husband is also ready to play with her.”

With the experience of making the ding last time, the father and daughter reproduced the mask, although it was more complicated to make.

After seeing the photos of the handmade replicas online, many people expressed their admiration for the father.

“You were asked by the teacher to help your child with his manual work, but instead you ‘descended’ into the grave to get the real one,” one person joked.

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