- Museum number
Bronze vessel of 'ding' type. Below the rim is a register with confronting dragon-like creatures against a leiwen background. The creatures are separated by flanges. The rest of the body is covered in a decoration of bosses against a background of lozenges.
- Production date
- 12thC BC - 11thC BC
Diameter: 15.90 centimetres (mouth)
Height: 20.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Rawson 1992:
From c. 1650 BC, bronze was employed for exceptionally elegant versions of the highest quality ceramic cooking-pots. Made in bronze, the cooking-pots were not for ordinary meals but were reserved for offerings of food and wine to ancestors. Bronzes, as well as jades, were thus used for special ritual or ceremonial versions of standard everyday items. The material itself was scarcer and required more labour to work it than ordinary ceramic. Not only the material, but also the ways in which they were worked demonstrated their exalted functions. Bronze cooking pots were made in complicated forms, with extra knobs and handles and dense decoration, all of which would have been impracticle on everyday ceramics. Moreover, bronze ritual vessels were cast in moulds; a production technique which required for each piece a huge amount of the expensive metal. Details of shape and design - in other words, aesthetic qualities - were chosen to show off the distinctions between the bronze ritual vessel and the ceramic cooking pot. Fuirthermore, there would be no point in using these scarce and labour-intensive materials in place of common ones if they could not be inmediately recognised as outstanding. Craftmanship was, therefore, directed to exploiting and displaying the particular qualities of bronze that make it recognisably different from ordinary ceramic. These qualities had to be made visually noticeable. Bronze ritual vessels were heavily polished to enhance their shimmering qualities. Visual distinctions deployed to separate the ceremonial from the everyday can also be used to refer to smaller differences in the ranking of ritual items. In any society, from ancient China to twentieth-century Europe, the scarcest and most beautiful materials will be restricted to the uses deemed most important by that society.
These features also serve to advertise the wealth of the patron who can command supplies of both material and skilled labour. It is therefore not suprising that at times when rulers and their courts wished to assert their authority, they commissioned large numbers of bronzes. Further, when they wished to distract attention from weakness in society, they emphasized their power even more by increasing expenditure on ritual objects.
The 'ding' was a ritual vessel for cooked food with a round body and three legs. It was used throughout the Shang, Zhou, Qin and Han periods.
- On display (G33/dc3b/s3)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number