1

2

3

4

Dragon-Shaped Gong, Shang Dynasty, 16th - 11th century BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

This Shang dynasty gong is shaped, as usual, like a dragon with bottle horns; its body, however, is elongated compared to other examples. The object is a wine container, made beautiful by the bronze-caster's art. A close up of the dragon's head, and rubbings of the reliefs on the dragon's body, are shown at left.

The top of the dragons's body is a lid, that is lifted by the raised knob that can be seen in the photo. This knob could also be used to tie the lid to the body of the vessel, as is usual in Chinese objects and those from other early cultures, by means of a cord that would be wrapped around its stem and underneath its body. The relief on the lid is a top view of a sinuous, twisting, snake-like form. A Chinese alligator and other motifs are seen in relief along its side.

3

BuShang Dynasty, 16th - 11th century BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

This outstanding bronze vessel, a wine container, displays a diamond pattern of nipples below its waist1. Incised cloud-and-thunder patterns occupy both halves of the vessel. Three horned-animal faces are cast on to the upper body.
 
1Possibly these design elements, which can also be seen on the body of ancient bronze bells, were originally relicts of the casting process that later became incorporated into the design repertoire of Shang and Zhou dynasty bronzes.

4

Gong, Shang Dynasty, 16th - 11th century BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

The zoomorphic gong is decorated with bits and pieces of various animals, both real and imaginary.

5

Basin with Three Fishes Decoration, Shang Dynasty, 16th - 11th century BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

This pan has three fishes swimming around its inside walls, appropriate to a water vessel. It was excavated from Taohuazhe village, Shilou county. Compare: the famous pottery basin from Taosi. Both findspots are located in Shanxi Province.

6

Scoop With A Tiger Handle, Shang Dynasty, 16th - 11th century BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

An unusual bronze scoop is seen here, with a miniature tiger perching on its handle.

8

"Dancing Bell", Shang Dynasty, 16th - 11th century BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

This is a clapperless bronze bell used for dancing. Its sound was made by chains, attached to the handle loops, that struck its body when shaken.

9

Bowl with Gold Inlay, Warring States period, 475-221 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

This precious vessel illustrates that the Warring States were, although politically troubled, yet a culturally vibrant period. It is inlaid with gold.

10

Bronze Ox With Rider Holding A Plate, Warring States period, 475-221 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

This beautiful and thoroughly-engraved bronze ox carries a rider, who holds an openwork plate, resembling an umbrella, above his head. Perhaps the small plate held a saucer or some condiments for banqueting, but whatever its use this object must have been a centerpiece of the table.

11

Bronze DingSpring And Autumn period, 770-476 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

Bronze vessels like this Huo Ding (meat cooker) served a ritual function, to cement the ties between a vassal and his lord.

12

HuSpring And Autumn period, 770-476 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

The hu (wine vase), with climbing dragons and lotus crown, became a very popular vessel type from the Eastern Zhou period and onward.

13

Gourd-shaped Vessel, Spring And Autumn period, 770-476 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

A bird rests atop the bent neck of the vessel. A chain extends down to its zoomorph handle. The bulbous body of the vase is decorated in four bands of closely-set pimples. Compare: a similar vessel from Xi'an.

14

Open-work Ding, Spring And Autumn period, 770-476 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

The intertwined snakes, that decorate the surface of this ding, are skillful examples of openwork bronze casting. They would have been made in separate blocks using the lost-wax casting process, and then soldered on to the body of the vessel.

15

Wine-Warming Vessel, Western Han Dynasty, 26 BC © Shanxi Provincial Museum

The vessel is decorated with animals and birds in shallow raised relief, upon a blank background.

1617

Oil Lamp, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC - 8 AD © Shanxi Provincial Museum