- Gallery Text
One of the earliest forms of Chinese writing is preserved in the simple inscriptions on bronze vessels from the late Shang period. Integrally cast into the bronzes — as opposed to being incised into the vessel after the metal had hardened — these marks were usually placed on the interior wall or floor of a vessel; the lids of covered vessels had matching marks on their undersides. Shang inscriptions tend to be highly pictographic, with many resembling birds, weapons, or humanoid figures. The inscriptions are not always translatable into modern Chinese characters, but most are identifiable as the names of either the aristocratic owners who commissioned the vessels, or the ancestors to whom they were dedicated. During the succeeding Zhou dynasty, written characters became more standardized and bronze inscriptions lengthened, often commemorating an event in which the person commissioning the bronze was involved. Bronze inscriptions were thus akin to historical texts worthy of preservation and study.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Ceremonial Axe
- Ritual Implements
- Work Type
- 14th-11th century BCE
- Creation Place: East Asia, China
- Shang dynasty, c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE
- Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
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- Physical Descriptions
- Cast bronze
- H. 22.2 x W. 15.7 x Thickness 1.5 cm (8 3/4 x 6 3/16 x 9/16 in.)
- Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (by 1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
- THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT BY THE TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION TO THE HARVARD ART MUSEUMS.
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- Publication History
Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, Mass., 1987), p. 454, fig. 82.1
- Exhibition History
S427: Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Jades, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008
32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
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