F1961

© 2022 Smithsonian Institution

The largest bronze foundry complex from antiquity was excavated at Houma in northern China in the mid-twentieth century. At the two-acre site, archaeologists discovered evidence of extremely sophisticated manufacturing techniques. Fragments of reused clay models, master pattern blocks, and decorated clay molds indicate the adoption of ceramic pattern transfers to cast ornamented bronze objects. Using pattern blocks to increase the speed and volume of production without sacrificing quality was an astonishing innovation. Their presence proves foundries at Houma operated with a specialized workforce and a division of labor.

The facility was established around 585 BCE by the rulers of the State of Jin, who remained its chief patrons for about 150 years. Houma produced ornamented objects with complex, abstract designs, inlay, and what is now considered to be the earliest pictorial narratives in China. More than half of the objects featured in this exhibition were made at Houma. Other pieces illustrate the factory’s long-lasting influence and legacy that extended into the Western Han period (206 BCE–9 CE).

Smithsonian, National Museum of Asian Art, Ongoing 

FS-8138_12

Ritual wine container (zun) with masks and dragons, Middle Western Zhou dynasty, ca. 10th century BCE, China. Bronze. H x Diam: 27.5 × 24.7 cm (10 13/16 × 9 3/4 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1954.122. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution

FS-7359_05

Ritual wine container (hu) with masks, Middle Western Zhou dynasty, ca. late 10th-early 9th century BCE, China. Bronze. H x W x D: 48.8 x 33.3 x 27.8 cm (19 3/16 x 13 1/8 x 10 15/16 in). Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1913.21© 2022 Smithsonian Institution

FS-7781_20

Basin (jian) with dragon interlace, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 500-450 BCE, China, Henan province, Huixian. Bronze. H x W: 22.8 x 51.7 cm (9 x 20 3/8 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1939.5. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7359_13

Lidded ritual food cauldron (ding) with dragon interlace, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. late 6th-early 5th century BCE, China. Bronze. H x W x D: 38.5 x 49.3 x 44.6 cm (15 3/16 x 19 7/16 x 17 9/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1947.20a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7359_22

Square ritual wine container (fanghu) with narrative scenes, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 5th century BCE, China. Bronze. H x W x D: 37 x 21.8 x 20.9 cm (14 9/16 x 8 9/16 x 8 1/4 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1956.15. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7511_28

Ritual wine container (hu) with dragon interlace, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 5th century BCE, China. Bronze. H x Diam: 44.8 × 26.6 cm (17 5/8 × 10 1/2 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1957.22. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-6252_12

Lidded ritual wine container (zun) in the form of a bird, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 5th century BCE, China, Shanxi province. Bronze with gold inlay. H x W x D: 26.5 x 13.5 x 20 cm (10 7/16 x 5 5/16 x 7 7/8 in). Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1961.30a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7493_29

Fitting in the form of an animal, possibly a tapir, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. early 5th century BCE, China, Shanxi province. Bronze. H x W x D: 11.2 x 18.3 x 6.3 cm (4 7/16 x 7 3/16 x 2 1/2 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1940.23© 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7357_07

Fitting in the form of a quadruped with interlace, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warring States period, 5th century BCE,China, Probably Shanxi province, Liyu. Bronze. H x W: 11.8 x 20.4 cm (4 5/8 x 8 1/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art,F1948.24© 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-6333_07

Basin (jian) with narrative scenes, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 5th century BCE, China. Bronze. H x W: 28 x 61.4 cm (11 x 24 3/16 in). Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art,F1915.107. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution

FS-7373_14

Serving vessel with lid (dun) and dragons and ducks, Warring States period, Eastern Zhou dynasty, 5th century BCE, China, Shanxi Province, purportedly from Liyu. Bronze. H x W: 15.3 x 16.4 cm (6 x 6 7/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1932.13a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution

FS-F1932

FS-F1932

Terminal chock from a chariot, Warring States period, Eastern Zhou dynasty, 5th-4th century BCE, China. Bronze with gold and silver inlay.H x W: 7.9 x 25.6 cm (3 1/8 x 10 1/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art F1932.15a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution

273753846_1153805422056142_456719786591027144_n

Lidded ritual food server (dou) with dragon interlace, early Warring States period, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. late 5th-early 4th century BCE, China. Bronze with gold inlay. H x W x D: 15.2 x 18.8 x 14.1 cm (6 x 7 3/8 x 5 9/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1939.41a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution

FS-7493_23

Chariot shaft fitting in the form of a dragon head, Late Warring States period, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 4th century BCE, China, Henan province, Jincun. Bronze with gilding and silvering and glass. H x W x D: 12.9 x 23.1 x 17 cm (5 1/16 x 9 1/8 x 6 11/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1932.14a-c. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-6334_05

Square lidded wine container (fanghu) with geometric decoration, Middle Warring States period, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 4th century BCE, China. Bronze with copper, silver, and malachite inlay. H x W x D: 52.7 x 27.9 x 25.6 cm (20 3/4 x 11 x 10 1/16 in). Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1961.32a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-F1915

Wine flask (bianhu) with geometric decoration, Late Warring States period, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 3rd century BCE, China, Henan or Hebei province. Bronze with silver inlay. H x W x D (overall): 31.3 x 30.5 x 11.7 cm (12 5/16 x 12 x 4 5/8 in). Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1915.103a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7511_27

Lidded incense burner (xianglu) with geometric decoration and narrative scenes, Early Western Han dynasty, ca. 2nd century BCE, China, Henan or Hebei province. Bronze with gold, silver, turquoise, and carnelian inlay. H x W: 17.9 x 10 cm (7 1/16 x 3 15/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1947.15a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7253_11

Incense burner (shan lu) with cover, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Bronze. H x Diam (assembled): 17.9 x 10.2 cm (7 1/16 x 4 in). Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1911.79a-b© 2022 Smithsonian Institution

FS-7726_16

 Bowl with painted designs, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Bronze with pigment. H x W: 8.5 x 16.3 cm (3 3/8 x 6 7/16 in). Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1916.239. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

273832697_1153785358724815_2540981431760703429_n

Model for casting a monster mask, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Unglazed earthenware. H x W: 11.1 x 15.8 cm (4 3/8 x 6 1/4 in). Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1918.144. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution. 

FS-7597_07

Lidded ritual container (hu) with painted decoration, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Bronze, H x W: 16.8 x 13.2 cm (6 5/8 x 5 3/16 in). Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1968.32a-b.  © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-F1968

Basin with painted decoration, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Bronze. H x W: 8.1 x 15.7 cm (3 3/16 x 6 3/16 in). Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1968.33. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7597_09

Lidded food cauldron (ding) with painted decoration, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Bronze. H x W: 13.5 x 16.9 cm (5 5/16 x 6 5/8 in). Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1968.34a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-7597_10

Lidded square ritual wine vessel (fanghu) with painted decoration, Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE, China. Bronze. H x W: 17.8 x 10.9 cm (7 x 4 5/16 in). Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1968.35a-b. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-6321_04

Cup and stand, early Warring States period, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 5th-4th century BCE. Black and red lacquer on wood core. H x W x D: 23.5 x 15.5 x 17.9 cm (9 1/4 x 6 1/8 x 7 1/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1949.1. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution. 

274036883_1153817128721638_1067075159723160238_n

Cup, Warring States period, Eastern Zhou dynasty, 5th-3rd century BCE. Lacquer. H x W x D: 5 x 15.2 x 17.1 cm (1 15/16 x 6 x 6 3/4 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1947.24. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

FS-6748_07

Bowl with decorations overlaid in red and dull brown lacquer, Warring States period, Late Eastern Zhou dynasty, 4th-3rd century BCE, China. Lacquer. H x Diam: 5.5 x 27.1 cm (2 3/16 x 10 11/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment Freer Gallery of Art, F1953.8. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.

273681396_1153828808720470_7748542025219629505_n

Ewer of brownish lacquer over wood, representing a crouching animal, Eastern Zhou to Western Han dynasty, 3rd century BCE, China. Lacquer. H x W x D: 15.6 x 15.4 x 30.7 cm (6 1/8 x 6 1/16 x 12 1/16 in). Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1949.22. © 2022 Smithsonian Institution.