Ding - Ritual Vessel, 12th Century B.C. Bronze cast in ceramic mold; height 18 cm, width 17,5 cm, depth 17,5 cm. Collection of Kinsky Palace, National Gallery of Prague, Vp 3138.
The ritual bronze wares from the Bronze Period (c. 2000–200 B.C.) that have survived in China in large numbers are unique in use and production technology. They were not made in the so-called lost-wax technique, but were cast in complexly decorated moulds of joint ceramic parts specially produced for each object. At the time the first states were forming in China, these vessels were used for rituals to pay respect to deceased ancestors to whom sacrifices such as meat, cereals, and alcohol were offered. Gradually, elaborate sets developed, their ownership based on social standing. The ding tripod has exclusive status in the classification of these bronze vessels as its ownership was connected with state power. According to legend, nine tripods cast from the metal that the representatives of all vassal territories brought as a tribute were donated to the first legendary ruler of China. Their ownership was a symbol of the ruling power, thus to steal them meant to take over this power from a defeated state.