Excavations at Anyang, the capital city of China during the late Shang period (1300-1050 B.C.E.), have revealed large palace buildings, workshops, and burial sites with many bronze vessels. These vessels were mainly cast for the king and the nobility. The Zhou people defeated the Shang and established a new capital at Xi'an. Under the Zhou (1050 B.C.E. to 221 B.C.E.), bronze vessels, which had been used only for rituals, became items of luxury and power.
to look at this work
Bronze vessels cast during the Shang Dynasty (1700-1050 B.C.E.) were used in state rituals and in other rituals concerned with communication with ancestors or gods. The belief that deceased spirits had powers to influence events on earth was important in early Chinese culture. Since spirits were all-powerful, they had to be propitiated. The most important way to appease them was with periodic sacrifices, during which offerings of food and drink were made and the spirits were invited to partake in a ritual meal. In addition to being used for such ceremonies, bronze vessels were often buried in tombs. Under the Zhou, bronze vessels were still cast for rituals to honor ancestors, but other motivations became more common.
this object was made
*Jessica Rawson, ed., The British Museum Book of Chinese Art. (Thames and Hudson Inc., 1992), p.49.
| Slideshow | Looking
at Art | Lesson Plans |
Other Resources | About the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection | Arts Education Programs at Asia Society | Credits |
© Copyright 2002 Asia Society