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A Study Of Taotie On The Bronze Sculpture Of Shang Dynasty
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Relics from the Yin Ruins state clearly that the manufacture of bronze of Shang stands at the obvious elite statue among the various types of handicrafts. The unearthed bronze has a wide range of types and exquisite workmanship while the content and subject of the decorations are abundant, which on one side endow the external gorgeous and magnificent form and on the other side, bear a particular culture and ethos. As an essential application, the bronze acts as the country’s political and ritual vessels on behalf of the status, identity and power. In the national and ceremonial or religious activities in different levels, the bronze sculpture also serves as the intermediary object to link up the human and gods or spirits, being endowed with a kind of sacred and mysterious meaning.
Taotie, one of the decorations on the bronze sculpture once has caused a lot of controversy. Many scholars believe that it is linked with a certain belief system that exists of bronze sculptures. Through reading and researching, we can draw a preliminary view that the option on the decorations of the bronze sculptures is in line with its subject and content. As the bronze has a function or a purpose that is more significant or meaningful the decoration itself. But the decoration can attract the attention, on which the taotie is undoubtedly successful. Now in the modern times, we maybe not able to have an idea of its meaning due to the loss of data, but we do see the point where the taotie catch our eyes. This dramatic effect can be considered to be the function or purpose of the decorations.
Symbolic meaning of the decoration or patterns
Decoration can be as simple as just a line engraved on the pottery or so complicated as the incised faces and animals by the mean of intaglio on the bronze statue. In this definition, the decoration may be irrelevant that even to remove them from the jar or bronze, the objects will still be the original objects. However, the decoration is not as unnecessary as the definition shows. If there were not any decorations in the world, it would be dull and boring. More importantly, we would be unable to distinguish between the environment around us, such as how to identify the building or how to choose the clothes. The decorations contribute to distinguish and identify the man-made objects associated with us, and further help us tell the man-made objects and nature.
Facts indicate that decorative patterns of the chinese bronze can have symbolic meaning, which is easy to make people come to this conclusion: All of the patterns are originally conceived as symbols despite that their significance may have already vanished in the process of historical development. The vast majority of the decorative patterns on the bronze all possess the course of evolution in the material, technique and artistic tradition. Normally, the significance of the patterns can give expression by the form of decorations. For example, the lotus patterns on top of the Dunhuang Grottoes have many different forms of expression. Quoted the meaning of the Buddhist sense, “a kind of expression is sufficient while all the rest may be redundant.” The Buddhism does not require so many forms of lotus, so this perhaps is simply to meet the different tastes and needs of diverse pilgrims. Li Geer thinks that, “Any religious symbols will eventually become prominent pure decorative patterns as long as they are appropriate for the art.” Whether the lotus patterns are a symbolic mark or not, the truth that it being a pattern become widespread can only be explained from the form.
In this matter, there is necessary to explore the decorations on the bronze dragon of the Shang Dynasty. Nearly all the taotie motif and parts of the variant can be taken for the differences in the decorations but in the significance.
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