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Fig. 14. The bronze layout of the mausoleum yard, length 94 cm, unearthed in the tomb of the prince of the Zhongshan State, the Hebei Province. After the Institute of Archaeology at the CASS, 1984.
are very important periods in Chinese history. During that time, cities and states appeared; Chinese characters and a large number of documents had already emerged; the Bronze Age civilization reached its
peak, and the Iron Age began. The culture and civilization of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou laid a solid foundation for the development of culture from the Qin Dynasty to the present day.
III. ANCIENT BRONZES: AN INTRODUCTION
China has a very rich store of cultural relics, of which the bronzes are the most splendid. Like cities and Chinese characters, bronzes are also an essential part of Chinese civilization, especially the ritual vessels. Ritual bronzes play a very important role in politics in ancient China. They are not only symbols of wealth and status, but also of political power. The fact that one owns ritual bronzes means a lot of things, such as owning ores and advanced techniques, controlling transportation and casting industry, appropriating labour on a large scale, and even having power over military forces. Therefore the bronze ritual vessel is a key to understanding Chinese bronze civilization, and further, the whole ancient history of China. Besides, these bronzes can also be considered as great works of art (for bronzes as works of art, see Li 1995, 110ff.; see also Li & Allan 1995, 409ff.). I have already mentioned that the collecting and studying of bronzes can be traced to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC–24 AD). Many books on bronzes appeared as far back as the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). Until the 1950s, tens of thousands of various bronzes had been found, though the majority not through archaeological excavation. Since the
then on, the development of bronzes mainly undergoes ﬁve stages (for the important discoveries and the development of bronzes, see Li 1995; also Shaughnessy & Loewe 1999). (1) The ﬁrst stage occurs during the Xia Dynasty. The unearthed bronzes of the Xia concentrate on the Erlitou site, in the Henan province. This site may, as mentioned, be the ruin of the capital of the Xia. A number of bronzes, including tools, weapons, ornaments and containers, are found in tombs. The most common containers are two kinds of goblet named Jue and Jia. They have ﬂat bottoms and three long and narrow legs. Ornaments include some discs and pendants inlaid with turquoise. Tools include knives, awls, and ﬁshing hooks, while the weapons include dagger-axes, battle-axes etc. (2) The second stage is that of the Shang Dynasty. The early Shang bronzes are mainly found at the early capital Zhengzhou and the nearby areas. Most bronzes are found in storage pits. There is a group of bronze vessels in each pit, including some huge vessels, such as the rectangular Ding, which is more than one meter high. Besides, many bronzes are found in the areas far away from the capital. One of the most important discoveries is a collection of 63 bronzes. They were unearthed in a tomb at the bank of the Yangzi River, which belonged to the southern territory of the early Shang. During this period, cooking vessels, food containers, wine vessels, and water vessels had already appeared. In the late Shang, the development of bronzes reaches its ﬁrst peak. The typical bronzes of this period come from the Yin Ruin. On this site, a large number of bronzes are from tombs of the royal, the noble and the common people, and also from sacriﬁce pits. Other ﬁndings cover a large area of China, even some remote border areas. For example, in the western province Shaanxi, many bronzes are found in pits; many bronzes are also unearthed along both banks of the Yellow River in the Shanxi province. They are suspected to be the relics of some small states of the Shang period. The most exciting ﬁndings in recent years are in South China (for the discoveries and characteristics of bronzes from the South, see Bagley 1987). This proves that the bronze culture of the Yangzi River Valley is as developed as that of the Yellow River Valley during the Shang period. For ex-
1950s, along with the development of archaeological ﬁeldwork, precious bronzes have been discovered in different parts of China. In the meantime, due to the employment of archaeological methods, the study of bronzes has reached a new level. In the following, I am going to introduce Chinese bronzes in four ways. They are: the origin and development; classiﬁcations and functions; decorations and inscriptions; and techniques of bronze making.
1. THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT
When did bronze appear in China? The answer can be found in two sources. Firstly, from historical documents. According to an old book entitled Lost History of the State of Yue (Yue Jue Shu), bronze ﬁrst appeared in the Xia Dynasty. There is a story in this book. In the 5th century BC, the Prince of Chu wanted to make a valuable iron sword, and his minister told him the story of the development of weapons and implements since ancient times. The series is: stone, bronze and iron. It is interesting that this observation coincides with modern archaeology. Other documents also show that the bronze ﬁrst appeared in the Xia. For example, Records of the Historian (Shi Ji) records that nine bronze Dings, a kind of ritual vessel, were made in the early Xia. The Book of Mo Zi (Mo Zi) records that the king of the Xia ordered people to procure copper ore from mountains to make bronze Dings (Li 1995, 10ff.). But according to archaeological discoveries, the earliest material evidence of copper and bronze articles can even be traced to the Late Neolithic Age. For example, a piece of copper cast in a single mould was found on a site dating to 6700 years ago. Many copper and bronze articles were discovered in the Yellow River valley, dating to about 4000 years ago. Most of these are tools and ornaments, some are forged, while others are cast in moulds. Among them there are two signiﬁcant articles, one is a fragment of the bottom of a large container, containing seven percent tin. Another is a bronze bell cast in a mould, dating to 2100 BC. Besides bronze articles, some pottery moulds and wastes of ore were found, dating to around the same time (Li 1995, 10ff.). These discoveries all prove that 4000 years ago China was able to make large and complicated bronze objects. From
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ample, along the Xiang River (the Hunan province), many beautiful bronze vessels are unearthed in riverbeds or on hilltops. The interesting thing is that, in most cases, each time only a single bronze is unearthed. Another example, in the Jiangxi province, there is a large tomb where several hundred bronzes of different periods of the Shang Dynasty were found. In the Sichuan province we found two pits full of amazing and mysterious bronzes. For instance, a large bronze statue is 2.61 meters high. There are a lot of human masks and statues of human heads with different characteristics, some of these covered by golden masks. The largest mask is 64.5 cm high and 138 cm wide. We also ﬁnd several bronze trees with bronze branches, ﬂowers, fruits, birds, bells and other ornaments. The largest tree is four meters high. Until now there have been no satisfactory explanations of these new ﬁnds in South China. Why were so many beautiful bronzes buried along the Xiang River? Who is buried in the large tomb? What are the functions of the bronze statues, masks, trees and other strange things? As the ancient people left us such a rich store of treasures, they also left these mysteries and riddles to us (for the Shang bronzes, see Bagley 1987). (3) The third stage is Western Zhou. Many important ﬁnds are concentrated in the Shaanxi province, which is the original area of the Zhou people (Fig. 15). Until now, no royal tomb has been found, therefore we can assume the majority of the Western Zhou bronzes must be castings for ministers and high ofﬁcials of the royal court. Bronzes are also found in some remote areas, for example, many bronzes are found in the tombs in the lower reaches of the Yangzi River, and also in the pits in the Liaoning and Sichuan provinces (for the Western Zhou bronzes, see Rawson 1990). (4) The fourth stage is Eastern Zhou, the second peak of the development. At that time, many small states became stronger in political, economic and other aspects. As a result, each state has its own bronze casting industry. A large number of bronzes come from tombs of princes or marquises and other nobles. Many bronzes are also found in the ruins of the capitals (for the Eastern Zhou bronzes, see So 1995). (5) The last stage takes place in the Qin and Han Dynasties. In the Xia, Shang and Zhou, generally speaking, the features of the bronzes developed into
two groupings, the North and the South. Moreover, in a particular area or a particular state, the bronzes have their own characteristics. But in the Qin, along with the establishment of the ﬁrst empire, these differences are gradually dissolved. In the Qin and Han, the workmanship of many vessels reaches a very high level. The lamps, mirrors, chariots, and horses from the tombs of princes can probably best demonstrate this. For instance, we found two chariots in the tomb passage of the mausoleum of the ﬁrst Emperor of the Qin. Each chariot has four horses and one person, and one chariot is 3.17 meters long and one meter high. It is the largest in size and the most complicated in structure of any bronzes so far found in China (for the Qin and Han bronzes, see Wang & Chang 1982; also Li 1985).
2. CLASSIFICATIONS AND FUNCTIONS
Chinese bronzes can be divided into seven main categories according to their functions. They are ritual vessels, musical instruments, weapons, tools, chariots and harnesses, weights and measures, and miscellaneous articles (see Li 1995, 16ff.). Among these, the ritual vessel is the most important. I will just focus on this group. What is a ritual vessel? Ritual vessels are cooking vessels, food containers, wine vessels and water vessels, and they are used in complex ancient ceremonies. Many ritual practices and the particular ritual vessels being used therein are recorded in documents. Usually the vessels were exhibited in temples and ancestral halls, and used at feasts or ceremonial ablutions. Most ritual vessels have been unearthed from tombs. Some vessels were used by owners during their lifetimes for ritual sacriﬁce or during feasts, others were made only as burial objects. The burial ceremony of the royal and noble families was quite ostentatious and extravagant. In some Shang tombs, we even found food containers with meat and wine vessels with wine. Besides tombs, the storage pit is another repository for ritual vessels. In some urgent situations, people used to bury their bronzes at a certain spot before ﬂeeing. Often a pit contains a whole group of bronzes that were cast by a family over several generations. Ritual vessels are also found on hill-
in the Yin Ruin are actually large enough to cook an entire ox or deer. Often, a series of Dings of different sizes denote the rank of the owner, depending on how many pieces there are in the set. For example, the king can use 12 Ding, the prince uses nine, the marquis and other nobles only use seven or less. Li is another kind of cooking vessel characterized by its pouchlike hollow legs (Fig. 16-7). Yan is a steamer, its upper part is like that of a Ding and its lower part is like a Li (Fig. 16-4). Many Yans are very large, for example, a Yan unearthed in a large tomb in Jiangxi Province is 1.14 meter high. Food containers have many types. The most common one is the Gui. The majority of Gui are round, while a few are rectangular. Some Guis’ have lids and two or four ears, others have none. Usually under the belly there is a circular base, some also have a block beneath the base (Fig. 16-3.5). Like the Dings, a series of Guis of varying size and number can denote the rank of the owner. Another type of food container is the Dou. It is round in shape, with a wide, and deep or shallow belly. There is a high handle and a circular base beneath the belly (Fig. 16-6). Some ancient Chinese books record the drinking customs of the Shang people. And archaeologists have also found various kinds of bronze wine vessels. The simplest set of wine goblets in the Shang consists of a Jue, a Jia, and a Gu. Jue has a spout at the front like a beak, a tail at the back, two pillars on the spout, and three legs below the round belly (Fig. 17-7). The largest Jue is 67 cm high and quite heavy. Therefore, it could not have been used in daily life. The Jia is similar to the Jue, but without spout and tail (Fig. 1710). The Gu has a simple shape, a wide mouth and circular base, and a long and slender body (Fig. 174). Another interesting drinking vessel is the Gong, its whole body is cast into the shape of an animal in a standing position (Fig. 17-6). Among the wine containers, the Zun, You, pot, and the square Yi are common. The Zun is normally round or square in shape, with a wide mouth and a circular base (Fig. 17-2). The You generally has loop handles and is dumpy or long and slender (Fig. 17-3). Some Yous are cast into the shape of animals, such as owls (Fig. 17-5) or tigers (Fig. 17-9). Usually, Zun and You are used together. The pot may be round or square, with a big belly. It may have one loop handle
Fig. 15. Drawings of the three layers of bronze vessels in the pit, Western Zhou, Fufeng, the Shaanxi Province. After Rawson, 1993.
tops and in riverbeds. Archaeologists guess that these bronzes may have been used to make offerings to mountains and rivers. Among the cooking vessels, the Ding is one of the most important types for cooking meat. It may be three-legged and round, or four-legged and rectangular, usually with two ears, and may or may not have lid (Fig. 16-1.2). The size of the Ding varies from very small to extremely large. For example, the smallest Ding is only 10 cm high, but the largest one from the Yin Ruin is 133 cm high, 110 cm long, and weighs 875 kg. An Ox Ding and a Deer Ding excavated from a large tomb
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Fig. 16. Bronze cooking vessels and food containers. 1. Round Ding (Eastern Zhou, height 31 cm), 2. Rectangular Ding (Shang, height 38.5 cm), 3. Gui (Western Zhou, height 35.7 cm), 4. Yan (Shang), 5. Gui (Eastern Zhou, height 24.1 cm), 6. Dou (Eastern Zhou, height 32 cm), 7. Li. 1.5.6. After Archaeology 372, Beijing; 2.7. After Li 1995; 3.4. After Rawson 1993.
or two ears on the side of the body (Fig. 17-1). The square Yi is quite interesting. The vessels were cast in the form of the roof of ancient buildings (Fig. 17-8). As for water vessels, the plate and the Yi are common, and they are used together (Fig. 18-1.2). During the ceremonial ablution, people pour the water from the Yi and wash their hands. The water ﬂows into the plate. The large water vessel is a Jian, with two or four ears (Fig. 18-3). Its large basin has three purposes, as a bathtub, as a mirror when ﬁlled with water, and as a container for ice. Now I would like to say a few words about musical instruments. I will only introduce two kinds. One is the Nao, with its mouth facing upward. It has a long shaft set on a wooden base (Fig. 18-5). The Nao could be used singly or in a set. The largest Nao is 89 cm high. Another is the chime (Fig. 18-4). A chime of
bells unearthed from the tomb of a marquis consisted of 65 different bells. Even today they can still produce a good tune. All in all, bronzes which have the same function could be different in both types and shapes even in the same area and during the same period. And the type and shape of the bronzes could be changing with the time as well. For example, the Ding appeared in every period but with different shape, while some other type of bronzes only appeared in one period but were replaced by new ones later.
3. DECORATIONS AND INSCRIPTIONS
The decorations used on the various bronzes came into existence long before the bronzes themselves ap-
Fig. 17. Bronze wine vessels. 1. Pot (Wester Zhou), 2. Zun (Shang, height 74.2 cm), 3. You (Shang), 4. Gu (Shang, height 28.5 cm), 5. Owl You (Shang, height 24 cm), 6. Gong (Shang, height 31.4 cm), 7. Jue (Shang), 8. Square Yi (Western Zhou, height 40.7 cm), 9. Tiger You (Shang, height 35 cm), 10. Jia (Shang, 65.7 cm). 1.8. After Rawson, 1993; 2. After Cultural Relics 509, Beijing; 220.127.116.11. After Acta Archaeology Sinica, 1981, Beijing; 5. After Li 1995; 6.9. After Archaeology 366, Beijing.
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Fig. 18. Bronze water vessels and musical instruments. 1. Plate (Western Zhou, diameter 47.3 cm), 2. Yi (Western Zhou), 3. Jian (Eastern Zhou), 4. Chime (Western Zhou), 5. Nao (Western Zhou, height 51.4 cm). 1.4. After Rawson 1993; 2.3. After Li 1995; 5. After Archaeology 361, Beijing.
peared. Many motifs are directly derived from Neolithic pottery and jade. Generally speaking, these motifs can be divided into four categories. The ﬁrst is that of mystic animals, which are the main themes on the bronzes of the Shang Dynasty. The Shang people were known to be believers in spirits, and the Shang kings used mystic and terrifying rituals to awe and control people. Moreover, these mystic animals could also be the medium between human beings and heaven. Therefore, the mystical and awesome bronzes reﬂect the primitive styles of worship practiced in those days. Among the mystic motifs, the most important is the ogre mask. Usually an ogre mask is a combination of various parts of dragons, tigers, oxen, sheep, deer,
birds and even human beings. Some ogre masks have a body, feet, claws and a tail, and some only have a head (Fig. 19-2, Fig. 20-2.10). Other mystic animals found are the dragon and the phoenix, which we are more familiar with. The dragon has two horns, a long body and strong claws (Fig. 19-3.4). There are many other different types of dragon. The typical one is the single-footed Kui dragon (Fig. 19-2, Fig. 20-1). The other is composed of many small dragons intertwining with each other (Fig. 20-6). The Phoenix has a long tail and a comb, and characteristically looks like a peacock (Fig. 20-4). The second kind consists of real creatures, including tigers, sheep, oxen, horses, elephants, birds, ﬁshes, tortoises, snakes, frogs, silkworms and cicadas, etc.
Fig. 19. Decorations. 1. Bird motif, geometric design, nipple design, ogre mask (Ding, Shang, height 20.8 cm), 2. Ogre mask, Kui dragon, cloud and thunder design (Ding, Shang, height 24 cm), 3. Dragon, ﬁsh motifs (Plate, Shang), 4. Dragon, tiger, ogre musk motifs (Zun, Shang, height 50.5 cm), 5. Meandering design, wave design (Yu, Eastern Zhou, height 38 cm). 18.104.22.168. After Archaeology 366, 372; 3. After Acta Archaeology Sinica, 1981, Beijing.
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Fig. 20. Decorations. 1. Kui dragon, 2. Ogre mask, 3. Cloud design, 4. Phoenix motif, 5. Bird and ogre mask, 6. Intertwining dragons, 7. Meandering design, 8. Tiger-devouring-human motif, 9. Spiral design, 10. Ogre mask.
(Fig. 19-1.3.4, Fig. 20-5.8). In most cases, these motifs are secondary to the ogre mask and the phoenix. Usually ﬁshes and tortoises appear on water vessels. Cicadas were very popular and lasted for quite a long period. In most cases, they appeared on handles of the bronzes. Usually, tigers, birds, oxen’s heads, and sheep’s heads appeared as sculptures, decorating lids or shoulders of the bronzes (for the meaning of mystic and real creatures, see Rawson 1987, 26ff.; see also Li & Allan 1995, 409ff.). The third category is that of simple patterns, such as, the cloud and thunder design, the nipple design, the tile design, the wave design, the meandering design, the banana leaf design, the spiral design and other geometric patterns (Fig. 19-1.5, Fig. 20-3.7.9). Among these, the cloud and thunder motif is often used as a background on delicate bronzes. Usually, the patterns are simpler on the early bronzes, later, they are more complicated, becoming the dominant motif. The last motifs can be called genre-painting designs, which emerged in the Eastern Zhou. The artists use ﬁne lines to create elaborate designs, vividly de-
picting scenes from real life, such as the hunting, banquets, archery, battles on boats, attacking cities, or scenes of picking mulberry leaves (Fig. 21). Incidentally, many bronzes are also cast in the shape of animals, such as the ox, pig, sheep, elephant, owl, rabbit, tiger, rhinoceros, and bird. Moreover, the decorations have different styles in different periods. For example, the decorations in the Xia and early Shang are simple, but in the later Shang, they become more elaborate, and have three layers. Mythic animals, especially the ogre mask, is the main theme in this period (Fig. 22). In the Western Zhou, ﬁrst the phoenix and the bird, then simple patterns are the main motifs. Till the Eastern Zhou, geometric patterns and vivid designs of daily life replaced animals. In the Qin and Han Dynasties, the bronzes tend to be plain. On many bronzes there is no decoration at all. Therefore in a sense, the decoration can be regarded as a ‘‘language’’, which will help us not only to ‘‘read’’ the bronzes themselves but also the cultural connotations embodied in the bronzes.
as relief. Only in a few instances are characters engraved with sharp tools. Generally the bronze inscriptions of the Shang period are plain, mainly recording the family and ﬁrst names of the owner of the vessel, and the form of address of the ancestor to whom the sacriﬁcial vessel is dedicated. In the late Shang and the Western Zhou, inscriptions become longer, and the contents include rewards and appointments received by the owner from the king, battle achievements, treaties, oaths, instructions, and admonitions for future generations (Fig. 23). The bronze inscriptions are invaluable because they not only serve as important data in studying Chinese bronzes, but also in studying Chinese history (Li 1995, 81ff.; see also Shaughnessy 1991). Some bronzes bear inscriptions consisting of about 500 characters. In the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the longest article contained in the Venerated Documents (Shang Shu) is of only 1000 characters, while others are of no more than 500. Where amount of information is concerned, the bronze inscriptions are comparable to the celebrated historical works. But not only this. Many a time, inscriptions on the unearthed bronzes conﬁrm the historical documents. The inscriptions can verify the authenticity of stories narrated in ancient books, and even furnish details to some historical events. For example, according to the Venerated Documents (Shang Shu) and the Lost Records of the Zhou (Yi Zhou Shu), on one particular day in the lunar calendar, the king of the Zhou led his army out to attack the capital of the Shang. He takes the oath to confront the Shang army in a decisive battle. The Shang army is, however, badly defeated, so the Shang king burns himself that very same night, bringing about the end of the Shang. In 1976, a bronze Gui of the Zhou was found, with this historical event, including the exact date of the battle, recorded in the inscriptions. In a sense, bronze inscriptions are buried evidences of ancient history. Occasionally, inscriptions even record historical events which are not mentioned in any documents. For example, there is a small state called Zhongshan during the Eastern Zhou, but the information about it is too fragmentary to form a complete picture of its history. In 1974, a group of bronzes was found in the tomb of the Prince of Zhongshan, including one Ding and two
Fig. 21. Genre-painting design, engraved on a bronze pot, Eastern Zhou. On the left of the top there is a scene depicting archery, while on the right is that of picking mulberry leaves. In the middle on the left there is a banquet scene in two layers, and the right side shows the hunting scene. On the left in the last part there is the scene of attacking a city, and the right side is that of ﬁghting on the boat. After Li 1995.
Actually, there is also a real language on the bronzes: the inscriptions. Just like the bronze motifs, the earliest palaeographic material is on the pottery of antiquity, from about 6000 years ago. Evidence reveals that the inscriptions on the bronzes date back to the early period of the Shang Dynasty. The early inscriptions are pictographic characters. Why did the ancient people cast inscriptions on the bronzes? A bronze is solid and long-lasting, therefore it can record historical events in texts. In the majority of cases, the characters are cast. Usually, they are sunk into the surface, while occasionally they appear
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Fig. 23. Inscriptions, cast on a bronze plate, Western Zhou. The ﬁrst part of the inscriptions has recorded the achivements made by seven kings and the important events which happened in the early Western Zhou. The second part has recorded the history of six generations of the owner’s family. After the Institute of Archaeology at the CASS, 1984.
at that time, not only trading of land existed, but also that land was already valued in terms of currency.
Fig. 22. Square Lei, Wine container, Later Shang, height 53 cm. From the top to bottom, the decorations are bird, Kui dragon and sheep head, bird, ogre mask with body, ogre mask without body, bird. The background design is cloud and thunder motif. After The bronzes housed in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1964.
4. TECHNIQUES OF BRONZE MAKING
The technique of casting with sectional pottery moulds is fully developed in the Xia, Shang and Zhou. Large or complicated objects are made by separate moulds. The minor parts of an object are cast beforehand and then placed in a bigger mould for the main body, and vice versa. Usually, at least four moulds are needed, but more for complicated vessels. For example, a ram Zun of the Shang period required 27 moulds. Sometimes, one object can be cast in two different metals. We have found bronze battle-axes with iron blades of the Shang, and also bronze swords reinforced with iron rods in the center of the Eastern Zhou.
pots. The inscriptions on these three bronzes describe in detail the genealogy of the Zhongshan and some other major historical events. Another interesting example is that of four bronzes found in 1975. The inscriptions describe several long-lasting dealings between two nobles. One of the dealings is about exchanging and trading land. Before this ﬁnd, it was widely believed that during the Western Zhou land could not be transferred. The inscriptions indicate that,
The Western Zhou (11th–770 BC): stable development The Eastern Zhou (770–221 BC): the second peak The Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC–220 AD): less important (2) Classiﬁcations and functions A. ritual vessels cooking vessels: Ding, Li, Yan, etc. food containers: Gui, Dou, etc. wine goblets: Jue, Jia, Gu, Gong, etc. wine containers: Zun, You, pot, square Yi, etc. water vessels: plate, Yi, Jian, etc. B. musical instruments Nao, chime, etc. (3) Decorations and inscriptions A. decorations mystic animals: ogre mask, dragon, phoenix, etc. real creatures: tiger, sheep, ox, horse, elephant, bird, ﬁsh, tortoise, snake, frog, ciada, etc. simple patterns: nipple design, cloud and thunder design, tile design, meandering design, wave design, geometric patterns, etc. genre-paintings: hunting, banquet, archery, battle, picking mulberry leaves, etc. B. inscriptions (4) Techniques of bronzes making casting with pottery moulds lost wax method techniques of inlaying
In the Eastern Zhou, a more advanced lost wax method was adopted. The most famous example of such bronzes is a set of Zun and plate from the tomb of marquis Zhen. The amazingly high degree of perfection of these bronzes indicates that the lost wax technique must have undergone a long period of development. The technique of inlaying was also developed quite early in the Xia. Turquoise is the ﬁrst stone used speciﬁcally for this purpose, then jade and shell. Usually, these materials are inlaid into the ogre masks. Later, gold, silver, and copper are inlaid into the scenes of daily life, animals or other patterns. In the Eastern Zhou, people started to use certain chemicals to give the surface of bronze weapons a rustproof coating. Even though they have been buried for more than 20 centuries, some can still cut through a stack of paper. In the Han, bronzes become less important. At that time lacquer wares develop quickly, the lighter and beautiful lacquer wares replacing the heavy bronze vessels in daily life. Especially at the end of the Han, with the rising prestige of iron tools and vessels, bronzes fall into decline. Thus, in China, the studies of ancient bronzes end with the Han Dynasty.
(1) The origin and development The late Neolithic Age: bronze appeared The Xia Dynasty (21st–16th century BC): ritual vessels appeared The Shang Dynasty (16th–11th century BC): the ﬁrst peak
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