ANCIENT CHINA BRONZE AGE
Overview of the Dynasty’s
The Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1046 BCE) a dynasty that took over from the Xia Dynasty after it lost power the Shang dynasty ruled most of northern china and was a territorial state that moved it capital one of the main evidence of the Shang Dynasty that we have is royal tombs that were found in 1976 one of them being Fu Hao a consort and military general of the king the great amount of things attested to the power and wealth of the Shang dynasty. That was until the Zhou over threw the Shang dynasty in 1050 BCE. The Zhou Dynasty (1050 to 711 BCE) The Dynasty is divided into the western Zhou and the Eastern Zhou this is marked by the capital moving from Xain to Luoyang. The Zhou dynasty was the longest lasting dynasty until It broke up into the warring states period Iron was introduced through this period even though it was not commonly used until later
Bronze is an alloy mostly consisting of copper and usually tin (sometimes other metals) it is the fact that it is mixed with other metals that bronze is much harder than regular copper. Because of the huge amount of bronze that was used to make things this time in china is called a bronze age.
The Shang dynasty bronze was found in quantity in the tomb of Fu Hao that I talked about earlier it contained more than 440 bronze vessels. By the late Shang period these vessels came with small inscriptions what they are, clan names or names of the ancestor they were dedicated to. The right to own these vessels was most likely confined to the royal family at first but later was bestowed on local governors that got their power from the ruler. These vessels were used in sacrificial offerings of food and wine given to the ancestors. These bronze vessels were given different shapes depending on their use in sacrificial rites. Some of them are the li a round body with a base that extends into three hollow legs. The Ding a hemispheric body on three solid legs. The Fang ding which is a square vessel on four legs. The gui which is a bowl placed on a ring shaped foot. These ones were for food for wine you have the You a covered bucket with a handle jue a small beaker on three legs and many others used for both wine and food. The bronze vessels were not cast by the lost wax method as was used in much of the world in the Shang dynasty but instead in something called sectional molds they would form clay around a core and sliced into sections then removed then fired and reconstructed around a smaller core that will make the hollow center of the vessel using metal spacers to separate them and the bronze is poured into the gap. Appendages such as leg and handles etcetera were usually cast separately. Designs could be added by adding designs to the clay mold. The ritual vessels ranged in height from 15 cm to 130 cm with the intricacy and sharpness of the designs Chinese level of bronze casting was extremely advanced. Many animals show up on Shang dynasty bronzes such as a tiger, cicada, snake, or owl it is not known if the animals have any particular meaning or if they are just on there for decoration
The Zhou dynasty took over from the Shang and took a lot of their bronze techniques too. They really added their own flare and experimented with the techniques with a not as impressive result in my opinion. First of all the vessels for the ancestors began to become vehicles for accomplishments by the late Zhou vessels could have well over 400 characters on it. The vessel designs themselves became heavy and sagging and the quality of the casting was significantly lower than the late Shang bronze. After 771 they show signs of a renaissance per say. The bronze vessels were often adorned with bold handles in the form of animal heads a little later it changes to a more elegant form with more elaborate patterns such as interlaced serpents.
Then came the lost wax method which was introduced by the late 7th century BC lead to experiments in design that are impressive but gaudy and overdone. Though they continued to refine and the design became simpler for example a comma like pattern that was influenced by textile patterns and embroidery.
Vessels were not the only thing that were made out of bronze there are many more things such as a orchestral set of 64 bells found in a royal tomb of the Zeng state . These orchestral bells are on wooden rack supported by bronze human figures. It is kind of like the huge xylophone of the ancient world the bells go from about 20cm small to 150cm height. With their shape and how you strike them each of these bells can produce two completely different tones gold inscriptions on the bell even tell some of the musical terms. Bronze mirrors were also used not just as a thing to look at yourself in but as a funerary object the mirrors were often polished on the face and elaborately decorated on the back in a refined and elegant way.
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“Mirror with flower design, Warring States period, bronze, Honolulu Museum of Art” by Hiart – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mirror_with_flower_design,_Warring_States_period,_bronze,_Honolulu_Museum_of_Art.JPG#/media/File:Mirror_with_flower_design,_Warring_States_period,_bronze,_Honolulu_Museum_of_Art.JPG
“河南博物院藏莲鹤方壶” by Greg kf – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%E6%B2%B3%E5%8D%97%E5%8D%9A%E7%89%A9%E9%99%A2%E8%97%8F%E8%8E%B2%E9%B9%A4%E6%96%B9%E5%A3%B6.jpg#/media/File:%E6%B2%B3%E5%8D%97%E5%8D%9A%E7%89%A9%E9%99%A2%E8%97%8F%E8%8E%B2%E9%B9%A4%E6%96%B9%E5%A3%B6.jpg
“Ritual cooking vessel” by ellenm1 – Flickr: Ritual cooking vessel. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ritual_cooking_vessel.jpg#/media/File:Ritual_cooking_vessel.jpg
“Wuhanbells” by User:Calton – Originally from zh.wikipedia; description page is/was here. From the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, dated 433 BC, during the interregnum between the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period of ancient China.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wuhanbells.jpg#/media/File:Wuhanbells.jpg
“Covered Ritual Wine Vessel (Fangyi), 11th to early 10th century BC, Shang dynasty or Western Zhou period, China, cast bronze – Sackler Museum – DSC02619” by Daderot – Daderot. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Covered_Ritual_Wine_Vessel_(Fangyi),_11th_to_early_10th_century_BC,_Shang_dynasty_or_Western_Zhou_period,_China,_cast_bronze_-_Sackler_Museum_-_DSC02619.JPG#/media/File:Covered_Ritual_Wine_Vessel_(Fangyi),_11th_to_early_10th_century_BC,_Shang_dynasty_or_Western_Zhou_period,_China,_cast_bronze_-_Sackler_Museum_-_DSC02619.JPG
“Vessel (jue), China, Shang dynasty, bronze, Honolulu Academy of Arts” by Hiart – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vessel_(jue),_China,_Shang_dynasty,_bronze,_Honolulu_Academy_of_Arts.JPG#/media/File:Vessel_(jue),_China,_Shang_dynasty,_bronze,_Honolulu_Academy_of_Arts.JPG
“Dinastia shang (fine)-din. zhou occ.le, versatoio tripode he in bronzo, xi sec. ac.” by I, Sailko. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dinastia_shang_(fine)-din._zhou_occ.le,_versatoio_tripode_he_in_bronzo,_xi_sec._ac..JPG#/media/File:Dinastia_shang_(fine)-din._zhou_occ.le,_versatoio_tripode_he_in_bronzo,_xi_sec._ac..JPG
“Dinastia shang (fine)-inizio zhou, bacinella per acqua pan, xii-xi sec. ac.” by I, Sailko. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dinastia_shang_(fine)-inizio_zhou,_bacinella_per_acqua_pan,_xii-xi_sec._ac..JPG#/media/File:Dinastia_shang_(fine)-inizio_zhou,_bacinella_per_acqua_pan,_xii-xi_sec._ac..JPG