At the Chicago Art Institute last month, we saw an exhibition of ancient Chinese bronzes.
Chinese emperors used to collect ancient bronzes to connect to the past and building their power in the present. These bronze objects mostly date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E. and had been found in tombs where they contained sacrifices to the ancestors, to accompany the deceased to the underworld, or commemorate family lineages in public ceremonies.
in later centuries, Chinese emperors considered these bronze vessels to be a sign of omens or blessings. Qianlong (1735-960, a powerful emperor of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) had collected a huge number of artworks, including ancient bronzes, to underscore his power and express his worldview.
Bronze making in China arose from pottery traditions of the Neolithic era (before 2000 BCE). Bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, gave inhabitants of the region a substance that was harder and more durable than anything previously available.
Among the most common vessel types are the bucket (you), cauldron (ding), cup (zhi), food container (gui), jar (hu), stemmed bowl (dou) and wine container (zun). Modern archaeologists classify objects by form and function and still use the ancient names.
The following photo is of one of my favorites, because of the elaborate designs all around it.
The Shang dynasty led to stability, prosperity, and various cultural developments, including a form of writing and a method of casting bronze using ceramic molds.
To be continued…