Bronze bell. The lowest register of decoration consists of a large taotie (monster) faces sitting above the mouth of the bell against an otherwise plain background. In addition to the snake-like horns of the creature two large scaly dragon sprout from the centres of the faces. The rest of the lower border is filled with invented beasts.
The remainder of the bell's surface is covered in three horizontal rows of six bosses made as small coiled creatures holding down a bird, possibly of the anatidae family, grouped into groups of three each by bands and panels of interlace in low relief.
The flat top section of the bell is decorated with two exquisite cast dragons that make a loop handle, from which the bell would have been suspended. Large relief faces, like those at the lip, lie across the top of the bell.
- 5thC BC (circa)
- Made in: ChinaHouma, Shanxi province
- Found/Acquired: Henan, possibly Qi xian (North)
- (Asia,China,Henan (province))
- Height: 55 centimetres
- Width: 42 centimetres
- Depth: 33 centimetres
- Weight: 33.5 kilograms
During the Eastern Zhou period, casting in north China came to be centred on the state of Jin in present-day Shanxi province. The area is renowned for exceptional bells such as this one, which also illustrates methods of mechanical production that had become the norm. The designs with which it is covered were produced using pattern blocks; that is, small blocks of clay were carved as the masters from which to impress strips of negative design in clay to fill out the moulds. One master could be used many times. Thus all the narrow borders on the bell are filled with the same dragon interlace, derived from a single pattern block, from which were produced strips of clay to set in the necessary parts of the mould. Further, the one pattern block could be used to produce strips of clay to decorate the moulds for several different bells. Rows of identically decorated vessels and massed groups of bells would be produced in this way and must have been intended to impress an audience.Rawson 1987:
Like the Zhao Meng jie hu this imposing bell was probably a product of the Houma foundries of the Jin state. Large taotie faces above the mouth of the bell amplify features already seen on the hu. In addition to the snake-like horns of the creature two large scaly dragon sprout from the centres of the faces. The rest of the lower border is filled with invented beasts. Eighteen bosses on each side of the bell are made as small coiled creatures, with unassuming interlace between the rows. Two exquisite cast dragons make a loop handle, and large relief faces, like those at the lip, lie across the top of the bell.
As the bell hangs from a loop a set on the top flat surface rather than from one attached to a tubular handle, it is known as a bo or as a niu zhong, to distinguish it from the other type, known as yong zhong. In large sets of bells, such as that from the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng , bo were included with sets of yong zhong. Watson has suggested that five bells known from Western collections belonged to the same set as this bell. However, these five can only be a small portion of the original assemblage.
2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
2012 Sept - Dec, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 'Bronze'
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Object reference number: RRC14582
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