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Wildly Creative Shang Bronzes

Advanced casting technology was used to produce elaborate bronze ritual vessels during the Chinese Bronze Age, which began in the kingdom of the Shang dynasty.

13th century BCE - Harvard Art Museums

Based in northern China, along the Yellow River in Henan Province, the Shang Dynasty ruled from c. 1600-1050 BCE. The kingdom is most known for its bronzes, and Shang artisans' highly developed method of casting bronze objects testifies to how advanced the civilization was.

Shang vessels were used for ritual ceremonies to honor deceased ancestors, whose names were often inscribed on the bronzes, and in the sacrificial offerings of food and wine.

The early Chinese were an agrarian society perceptive to the animals around them and used animal forms in their art. Vessels in the form of owls, tigers, buffalo, boars, rhinos, elephants, and rams have survived. These bronzes represent one of the most significant accomplishments in the history of metalwork in the ancient world.

Works cited:

“Chinese Bronze Vessels: Elegant, Powerful, and Mysterious | Collections Online.”,

Ulrich Theobald. “Ritual Bronze Vessels (”, Ulrich Theobald, 2019,

“The Great Bronze Age of China | Asia for Educators | Columbia University.”, 2009,


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