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Gallery Text

At its most basic level, casting bronze entails pouring a molten mixture of copper and tin into a mold and letting the mixture harden as it cools. In ancient China, the actual process was quite complex and involved ceramics technology in virtually every step. First, a model of the desired shape was created in clay and fired in a kiln; next, fresh clay was packed around this ceramic model, removed in multiple sections, and fired; and finally, the hardened section molds created in this process were reassembled around a ceramic core with space set between core and molds, and molten bronze was poured into this assemblage. The production of bronzes in China was inextricably linked to the region’s millennia-long ceramics tradition — in its use of kiln technology, its adaptation of ceramic vessels for bronze vessel shapes (such as the tripod ewer displayed here), and the creation of a casting method reliant on a potter’s skills.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.51.16
Title
Jade Dagger-Axe in a Bronze Haft
Other Titles
Alternate Title: ko
Classification
Ritual Implements
Work Type
dagger-axe
Date
12th-11th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Period
Shang dynasty, c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE
Culture
Chinese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/204593
Location
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Light gray nephrite blade; bronze haft inlaid with turquoise
Technique
Inlaid
Dimensions
L. 20.5 x W. 4.8 x Thickness 0.7 cm (8 1/16 x 1 7/8 x 1/4 in.)
Weight 206 g
Provenance
Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (by 1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Published Text
Catalogue
Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Authors
Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald Huber
Publisher
Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1975)

Catalogue entry no. 71 by Max Loehr:

71 Jade Dagger-Axe in a Bronze Haft
The blade is fashioned of opaque, light gray jade with whitish clouds. Its leaf-like shape and lentoid cross-section distinguish it typologically from the rest of the ko in this collection; the asymmetrically lowered point, however, justifies its designation as a dagger-axe. The blade is inserted into a bronze tang, the rectangular socket and butt of which are decorated with zoomorphic figures in a dazzling inlay of turquoise. The vertical halting bar and the perforated section of the tang behind it, which would be hidden by the wooden shaft, are left plain. Shang.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
1943
Object Number
1943.51.16
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald Huber, Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1975), cat. no. 71, p. 75

Exhibition History

S427: Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Jades, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu