Exploring Chinese bronzes at 11 Chinese museums

National Museum of China, Beijing

Updated: Oct 15, 2021 Print
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Ancient Chinese bronze ware is a significant category in the collection of the National Museum of China. Since the founding of the museum in 1959 (then known as the History Museum of China), the quantity and quality of ancient Chinese bronze in the collection have been among the highest in the world.

The image of Houmuwu Square Ding (cauldron) from the late Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC), part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of China [Photo/IC]

The National Museum of China is known for its many national treasures in this category, such as the Houmuwu Square Ding (cauldron) - the heaviest ancient piece of Chinese bronze ware, weighing over 832 kilograms; the intricately designed “Fu Hao” Owl-shaped Bronze Zun (wine vessel),unearthed from the Shang Dynasty royal tomb, its complementary pair is kept at the Henan Provincial Museum; the Zilong Ding (cauldron) and the Square-sectioned Zun Vessel, decorated with four rams’ heads from the late Shang Dynasty; the Great Ding Tripod of Yu and the Ji Zibai Plate of the Guo State from the Western Zhou Dynasty(c.11th century-771 BC);the Sword of Fuchai, King of the State of Wu, as well as those unearthed from Marquis Cai’s tomb dating back to the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).

They all represent the brilliant achievements of ancient Chinese bronze casting throughout different historical periods, and clearly outline the transformation of ancient Chinese bronze art. These pieces reveal the reformation of the social and political systems, as well as the changes in people’s thoughts and folk customs.

The Square-sectioned Zun Vessel decorated with four rams’ heads from the late Shang Dynasty is part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of China. [Photo/IC]

If you are planning a visit, the two sections of Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou Dynasties", and Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods from the permanent exhibition The Ancient China on the basement floor, are a must. Selected precious bronze ware from the museum’s collection are showcased to present to the public, from many perspectives, the splendor of China during the Bronze Age.

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