Topic: Chinese Tomb arts and Shang bronzes
Ancient Chinese tombs are valuable historic evidence of the life in the past. The belief in afterlife prompted the royal family to build tombs as their palaces in another life. All sorts of objects, animals and even human beings were buried with their owners as to provide a comfortable afterlife. Among them, bronzes were commonly found in various types including ritual vessels, tools, weapons, musical instruments and etc. Chinese bronzes dates back from the late Neolithic era 2000 BCE, matured in late Shang dynasty (C. 1500-1050) and this period is called the Bronze Age due to its advanced & sophisticated standard in the world. “In China, as in other societies, the mechanism that generated social cohesion, and at a later stage statecraft, was ritualization.” The ritual bronzes served multiple purposes and reflect various aspects of the society. Development in technology, military and economy strengthened the ruling powers and enabled the bronzes from early to late Shang dynasty to change in shape, technique, design and etc. These changes also indicate the royalties’ pursuit of aesthetics and ideology for the ritual bronzes. Image one is a bronze vessel with beast face pattern from the early Shang. It is a ritual vessel used for heating & pouring wine, called ‘Jue’ in Chinese. In image two there are the famous square vessel with four rams from late Shang (1300-1046 BC) and the close-up of the patterns. It is called “Zun” in Chinese, it was also used for libation and it is the largest square bronze wineware intact.
Topic: Chinese tomb art & Shang bronzes
I try to narrow down the statement as suggested. There might be some changes in phrasing but here is what I have gotten so far.
Ancient Chinese tombs are valuable historic evidence of the life in the past. The belief in afterlife prompted the royal family to build tombs as their palaces in another life. Thus, all sorts of objects, animals and even human beings were buried with their owners as to provide a comfortable afterlife. Among them, bronzes were commonly found in various types. Chinese bronzes dates back from the late Neolithic era, matured in late Shang dynasty, till the Tang dynasty and it is called the Bronze Age due to its advanced & sophisticated standard. The bronzes served multiple purposes back then and reflect various aspects of the society. The bronzes from early to late Shang dynasty changed in types, technique, design and etc. This indicates how development impacts on bronzes as well as how the design decisions were made more intentionally.
The technology improved enabled the possibility of changes of the bronzes. Image on the left is a bronze vessel with beast face pattern from the early Shang. It is a ritual wine ware called ‘Jue’ in Chinese. It has a pointy spout, a long extruded handle and it stands on three tall thin legs. On the right there are the famous square vessel with four rams from late Shang(1300-1046 BC) and the close-up of the patterns. It was also a ritual wine ware and it is the largest square vessel intact.
Firstly, the Jue has a very rough & simple shape compared with the elegant & complicated square vessel with four extruding rams. While the Jue has only plain beast pattern on the body, the square vessel has intricate patterns from top to the bottom of the vessel. One leg of the Jue is perpendicular to the body due to premature of the casting techniques. The technique was fully developed when they cast the square vessel. The rams and dragons were first cast and then the entire vessel was made with highly intricate patterns.
Essay Topic: What is Chinese tomb art? Compare two bronzes from the Shang dynasty.
Sources of information:
- National Museum of China website
- The Palace Museum of China
- Books: Early Chinese Art from Tombs& Temples, The Arts of China, Art in China
Tentative Structure of essay
Introduction of Chinese Tomb Art:
- Origin of Chinese Tomb Art
- Chinese tomb art is funerary art
- Belief in afterlife, religion, human sacrifice
- Types of vessels
- Skills & materials
- Functions: Daily usage; ritual used (Who were they dedicated to)
- Values of the tomb art & development
The Shang Dynasty Bronzes:
- Introduction of bronzes from Shang dynasty(3 stages)
- Types ( including vessels, weapons, musical instruments, implements, agricultural tools, horse and chariot fittings and all sorts of everyday objects. )
- Comparison between two bronzes. One from the early stage and the other from a later stage when the techniques were developed & mature.
- Comparing on techniques, patterns, types, change of focus etc.
- What are the meanings behind the changes & differences
A simple drinking vessel from early Shang & the famous Square vessel (fang zun) with four rams from late Shang
The bronzes are a manifestation of the politics, economics, culture and life of their time; a time capsule concept
There are many different methods to learn something. Everyone learns differently. For me, I feel that it’s easier to learn and understand the knowledge better through a more interactive way. For example, learning through images is better than reading wordy text for me. And a logically arranged content is easier to read than a random one. Besides, instead of purely listening method, I feel that knowledge are bettered learnt through interactive manners and experiencing the process. It turns out that the memory lasts longer as well. Sometimes it is good to learn on my own and figure it out myself as I can think calmly and thoroughly. However, when studying among groups, we can learn from each other when everyone notices different points.