Chinese Bronze

Jordan Steeves
Chinese Culture History
October 29, 2010

When walking through the Shanghai Museum: Bronze collection my gaze was immediately drawn to the Shang Dynasty bronze pou vessel with four ram heads.   The magnificent craftsmanship runs through the walls of the vessel like veins of an infuriated bull.   This vessel was from the Shang dynasty and showed distinctive characteristics of its brazen and exclusiveness.   The perfectly preserved ram heads protruded from the vessels upper lip with authority undoubtedly reflecting how in battle the Shang would use chariots as mobile command vehicles or elite symbols.   The rams also portrays how¬†the Shang king would personally lead a force of about a thousand troops into battle.   Below the ram heads are half spheres in which you would find on the outside of a shield and balanced the vessels lineage of curvature.   Following the half spheres you will find spines that demand attention, going slim to wide as you venture up the sides.   The spines represent the toughness of the Shang and compliment the symmetry as well as act as an indirect aesthetic path to the rams and finally the contents of the pot.   The external artwork creates a daring aura and as you reach the rim of the vessel you look into the darkness and you can only imagine the majestic rulers whom stood in your very spot.
The era of the Shang and the Zhou dynasties is generally known as the Bronze Age of China.   The Shang dynasties most distinctive and characteristic methods of decorating the bronze vessels were the use of taotie.   This consisted of a front facing view of an animal-like mask and a prominent pair of eyes, often protruding out with exaggeration and between the eyes is a nose, often with nostrils at the base. Other versions of taotie include a split animal-like body with legs and tail.   Much of the beautiful work was credited to a process called piece- mold casting; this technique enabled the bronze worker to achieve a high degree of sharpness...