China's bronze art flourished in the Shang (c.16th century-11th century BC) and Zhou (c. 11th century - 256 BC) dynasties, a period spanning most of China's slavery society and the start of its feudal society. In this period, identified as China's Bronze Age, bronze forging became the most important handicraft manufacturing sector. Large numbers of imposing bronze wares welding high functionality and artistic decoration were produced to cater to the need of the aristocracies and slave owners for daily utensils and ritual objects.
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. It is known for such properties as having a lower melting point and greater rigidity than copper. Liquid bronze expands so adequately when molded that the resulting shape and intricate motifs are very well presented.Bronze wares were monopolized and consumed only by the slave-owner class or aristocracies in China three to four thousand years ago, who commissioned bronze vessels and musical instruments as ritual objects used for high-class banquets and sacrificial offerings to ancestors, Heaven, Earth, and the god of soil and grains. Bronze wares of the Shang and Zhou dynasties are in several categories according to their functions. Each encompasses a group of objects with peculiar shapes and names.
Primary designs on most bronzes include zoomorphic motifs, geometric patterns, and depictions of human activities. Among them, the zoomorphic motifs are the most prevalent, followed by the geometric patterns. Motifs which showcase human activities didn't appear until the late Spring and Autumn Period to the Warring States Period (770–221 BC).
Discover both the figurative and the abstract animal motifs created by ancient Chinese people.
Illustrated here are examples of geometric patterns decorating the bronze vessels of diverse shapes.
Ritual life scenes of ancient aristocrats, including agriculture and sericulture, archery, feasts, dances, hunting, and warfare.