Fong, Wen, "The Great Bronze Age of China: An Exhibition from The People's Republic of China"

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Fong, Wen, "The Great Bronze Age of China: An Exhibition from The People's Republic of China"

Fong, Wen, "The Great Bronze Age of China: An Exhibition from The People's Republic of China"
Metropolitan Museum of Art | 1980 | ISBN: 0870992260 | English | PDF | 386 pages | 83.79 Mb

Nearly 4,000 years ago, the ancient Chinese made a discovery that would determine the course of their history and culture for two millennia—the alloy of tin and copper known as bronze. Bronze was used for tools and weapons and even musical instruments, but the Great Bronze Age of China has come down to us mainly in the ritual vessels that symbolized power and prestige for China's first three dynasties: the Xia, the Shang, and the Zhou. Passed on to successive conquerors, used to honor the ancestors, and buried—along with other grave goods and sacrificial victims or in storage pits by fleeing members of defeated dynasties—these exquisite bronzes reveal more about the character of life in ancient China than any other artifacts. As Chinese legend tells us, whoever held the bronze vessels held the power.

Recent archaeological excavations and recent diplomatic ties between the People's Republic and the United States have combined to make possible a unique exhibition of Bronze Age artifacts. Eighty-five bronzes—including vessels that range from the simplest wine cup to huge cauldrons, elaborate bird- and elephant-shaped containers, bells, and a standard top—are seen together for the first time on a generous loan from the People's Republic to five United States museums. Included are some objects so treasured that it was at first thought that they would not be permitted to leave China. Perhaps the most stunning objects are those from one of the most remarkable finds in the history of archaeology: in 1974, more than 7,000 life-size figures—a veritable army of warriors, cavalry, and chariots complete with horses and drivers—were discovered still standing, rank after rank, guarding the burial mound of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, who died in 210 B.C. Eight of them, six men and two horses, are included here, the first to be placed on exhibit outside China. Richly carved jades and an iron belt hook make up the remainder of the 105 objects presented. To document this extraordinary exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, sent a special advance team of researchers and a photographer to China in 1979, led by director Philippe de Montebello. Represented in this catalogue are the results of that journey—color-plate illustrations of all of the objects in the show, including many details, supplemented by black and white photographs—most of them supplied by China's Cultural Relics Bureau—along with many drawings, charts, and maps.

386 pages - full page color illustrations - studio size book
The Committee for the Preparation of Exhibitions of Archaeological Relics, Peoples Republic of China

Philippe de Montebello

Wen C. Fong

Editor's Note

Chronology of Bronze Age China

Introductory Essays

I. The Splendor of Ancient Chinese Bronzes
Ma Chengyuan

II. The Study of Chinese Bronze Age Arts: Methods and Approaches
Wen C. Fong

III. The Chinese Bronze Age: A Modern Synthesis
Kwang-chih Chang

IV. Burial Practices of Bronze Age China
Robert L. Thorp


1. The Beginnings of the Bronze Age: The Erlitou Culture Period
Robert W. Bagley
Colorplates 1–11

2. The Zhengzhou Phase (The Erligang Period)
Robert W. Bagley

3. The Appearance and Growth of Regional Bronze-using Cultures
Robert W. Bagley
Colorplates 12–40

4. The High Yinxu Phase (Anyang Period)
Robert W. Bagley

5. The Rise of the Western Zhou Dynasty
Robert W. Bagley
Colorplates 41–63

6. Transformation of the Bronze Art in Later Western Zhou
Robert W. Bagley

7. New Departures in Eastern Zhou Bronze Designs: The Spring and Autumn Period
Jenny F. So
Colorplates 64–97

8. The Inlaid Bronzes of the Warring States Period
Jenny F. So

9. The Waning of the Bronze Age: The Western Han Period (206 B.C.–A.D. 8)
Jenny F. So
Colorplates 98–105

10. The Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of Qin (221–206 B.C.)
Maxwell K. Hearn

Summary of Comments on the Catalogue from the Committee for the Preparation of Exhibitions of Archaeological Relics, People's Republic of China

A. Key to Shortened References
B. Excavation Reports and Related Materials

Wen Fong is editor, Special Consultant for Far Eastern Affairs at the Metropolitan Museum and Edwards Sanford Professor at Princeton University.

Fong, Wen, "The Great Bronze Age of China: An Exhibition from The People's Republic of China"