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Chinese Ancient Bronze Sculpture Culture
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Bronze is the alloy of copper, tin and lead. As it looks steel gray, it is known as bronze. Objects cast by bronze is called bronze sculpture. There is an old saying in the Ancient Chinese literature goes that “the big events of a country rests with the sacrifice and war”, referring to the bronze weapons used in war and sacrificial bronze sculptures applied in ritual ceremonies, equally important to a country. In the old times, the cast of the weapons and sacrificial bronze sculptures mostly employed the bronze. Thus, the bronze sculptures have from the indirect source witnesses the development of the Chinese civilization, proving to be the extremely essential category of Chinese antiques.
The day China invented the bronze sculpture has been 6600 years ago. It has been found that the time China officially entered into the Bronze Age should start from about 2000 BC when the world’s other ancient civilizations also had bronze sculptures. However, the Chinese bronze sculptures are most exquisite and beautiful and the casting techniques have always maintained the advanced level of the world. The large sacrificial bronze sculptures of China have been used by the ruling class to, in every slavery dynasty, offer sacrifice to heaven and to the ancestors and sing the praises and been utilized in banquets and feasts. Moreover, they would be buried underground along with the dead as funeral objects. Regarding a slave-owner’s state, the survival or downfall of the sacrificial bronze sculpture is the same as a country. Ding is one of the most crucial bronze sculptures, of extremely respected political status.
In ancient times, there was a saying that “Yu cast nine dings to symbolize the nine states of the old China”. Depending on the records of Zuo Zhuan, in the early Xia, the King divided the nation into nine states and each set a chief in charge. He commanded the nine chiefs to contribute bronze statue with which, he asked to build nine dings and then placed them in the capital to represent the whole nation. Therefrom, the later generations often borrowed the “inquiring ding” to imply the establishment of the regime. The nine dings were looking upon as the national treasures and handed down from generation to generation.
In late Xia, Jie was profligate and devoid of principles and the dings were moved to Shang. And then the last emperor of Shang was brutal and tyrannical and perished. So the nine dings were obtained by Zhou. All these mentions have demonstrated that ding was the mark of the nation and regime. In the feudal code of ethnics, the bronze sculpture, ding was still on behalf on the feudal political status and identity. The emperor was available to nine dings, the feudal vassals seven, ministers five and the scholars three. They must strictly abide by the laws and codes without arrogating. It was the same as for the alive or dead. From the above, we can see that during the long feudal rule, the sacrificial bronze sculptures have been politicized, mystical and power-oriented rather the ordinary practical chinese bronze sculptures. Being one of the materiality and spirituality, the bronze sculptures are wonderful and attracting for its distinction from the other relics.
Leaving alone the political nature of the sacrificial bronze dragon sculptures, they are abundant in shapes and modeling and vary in categories. Plus, as there are scarcely any two exactly the same bronze sculptures, they can be cited as the fine arts of the antiques. For instance, a piece of triple yan (a cooking vessel) in 1976 was excavated in the tomb of Fu Hao in the Yin Ruins of Xiaotun Village, Anyang, Henan. The shape of the bronze has never been seen before. The yan like this previously found are mostly singe pieces similar to a steamer of today. This bronze sculpture is made up by three paralleled zeng (the upper part of the yan for steaming rice) and one rectangular-shaped li (an ancient cooking tripod with hollow legs) that looks like three steamers standing on a long table.
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