Only a few years ago scholarly attention was drawn to the area of Lake Tien (also called Lake Kun-ming) in Yunnan Province, where from a group of princely tombs at Shih-chai-shan a strikingly expressive Late Bronze Age culture came to light [I]. With the discovery, in a tomb untouched by later disturbances, of a golden seal bearing the Chinese inscription ‘Seal of the King of Tien’, it was evident beyond doubt that the spade had struck the cemetery of the royal household or clan of Tien.
Even without this find the ethnohistorical identification of the burial site would have been possible from its geographical situation (FIG. I). According to historical tradition, from the Late Chou period onward the fertile plain around the shores of Lake Tien was known to have been occupied by the people of Tien, who gave the lake its name. No reference is made in the earliest records to either the actual extension of Tien’s sphere of influence or the state of civilization it may have attained.