Bronze is an alloy of copper and a variety of other elements such as tin, aluminum, and lead. Bronze ware can be found in many ancient civilizations. It was the first alloy and one of the most important alloys of mankind. You can find many kinds of bronze antiques in museums such as bronze statues, bronze vases, bronze jewelry, bronze horses, and bronze weapons.
The early bronze item in China was a knife discovered in Gansu Province Majiayao site. The bronze knife was dated to 3000 BC. During the early days of Bronze in China, bronze was mostly used to make knives, mirror and other tools. During Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, bronze production peaked. Bronze was used to make musical instruments, weapons, and containers. Bronze instrument and containers were wide used in sacrificial ceremonies. Taotie was one of the most popular motifs for the bronze ware during that time. Taotie is a Chinese mythical creature, said to have only head and no bodies. Cicada patterns became popular in Shang and Western Zhou dynasties. During the Spring and Autumn period, Dragon patterns pretty much dominate the bronze decorations.
Bronze ware in China
Chinese Bronze relics
Antique Chinese bronze
Bronze age in China
Bronze antique reproduction
At the beginning, the shape of the bronze items are very simple. The items were hammered into shape. As the bronze gains popularity, more complex shapes needs to be made. Bronze was cast with clay molds. Complicated items were cast separately and forged together later on.
Later on, the lost wax casting came along, eliminated the need for forging for complicated bronze sculpture pieces. The lost wax casting method uses a wax core, which has the shape and design of the desired bronze sculpture, in a mold. When molten bronze is poured in, the wax liquefy and drains through an air escape. You can find details of the bronze lost wax casting method from here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_wax#Lost_wax_bronze-casting_process
China lost wax
Lost wax casting
Lost wax bronze reproduction
Chinese Bronze Ding
Ding is one of the most common bronze vessels. Ding started as a cooking device, and then became a status symbol, especially for burial. A King can have nine Dings in his tomb. Most Bronze Dings are three-legged, except some of the older Dings are square and have four legs. You can still see Chinese bronze dings in temples as a container for incense burning.
Chinese Bronze Jue
Chinese bronze zun
Zun is a common wine vessel that has the most creative shapes. The ordinary ones shapes like a vase with a big belly to store wine. You can also find Zuns in animal shapes such as sheep, elephant, and rhinoceroses.
- Largest Bronze Vessel: Simuwu Ding is the largest Bronze Ding found in China. It is also the heaviest Bronze relic found in China. It was unearthed in Henan province, Anyang area during world war II. It is on exhibit in China National Museum.
- Largest Zun: Four sheep Zun (Shang dynasty) found in Hunan Province Ning county in 1938. Now collected by China National Museum.
- Largest Bronze sculpture: The two bronze horse drawn carriage from Qin Emperor’s tomb in Shaanxi. The horses and the carriages are full of detail. The doors and windows on the carriage are functional. The compact parasol holder is fully functional. The craftsmanship of these pieces are truly amazing.