Shang Bronze

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In the urban pockets of China, bronze was often employed with ritual vessels, where nobles would perform sacrifices to their ancestors, since the realm depended on the morality of its individuals. These pieces were in high demand by feudal dignitaries starting in the Shang period. The you vessel served the purpose of holding wine for ritual ceremonies, and the hu especially acted as a vessel to mix wine with water. While the you vessel was most frequently used during the late Shang to early Western Zhou territory, the hu vessel was popular in the Eastern Zhou territory. A shift occurs between these two vessels, as the Shang dynasty represented an agricultural-hunting society, while the Zhou dynasty expressed an urban agricultural state.…show more content…
Along the handle, the artist includes figures to represent bulls. However, there are more abstract geometric designs on the interior of the handle. This represents how significant the artist viewed the exterior of the piece, since he decorated it completely. On the attached pieces of bronze that jut out into space like arms, the artist designed deer heads. In the background, the artist depicts birds that appear like phoenixes, and the eyes of the birds and other animals bump out in what is called a taotie. This was common during this period, as the taotie represented zoomorphic masks, where humans are made to look like animals. Around the birds, the artist designed geometric images in a thunder pattern, leiwen, to fill in the space and represent an abundance of rain for agriculture. The artist placed the images in the background of the you in bands. This creates a symmetrical layout of the different images around the vessel, as they repeat, along with the other animal…show more content…
During the Eastern Zhou period, bronze pieces were cast using the piece-mold method, where a "clay matrix was built around a clay core; the decorative designs were then carved in the clay matrix, around which clay piece molds were built. Subsequently, the matrix was removed, creating the space to be filled by molten bronze." Viewers can see how the artist used this method by observing the seams along the side of the bronze you vessel, which the artist incorporated into his design. This process also allows more stability, because the pieces can be soldered onto the vessel. Techniques, however, changed in the fourth century, as it became common to cast bronze pieces using the lost-wax method, and this can be seen with the hu vessel. The lost-wax method also utilized a clay mold, but "molten bronze replaces a wax model inside a solid clay casing." This method was common in both ancient Greece and Rome, so this process was recognized later in China, because of merchants traveling west on the silk

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