IntroductionThe Shang Dynasty is when the Chinese Bronze Age began and this period produced some of the most beautiful bronze works of art the world has ever seen. The lists of interesting information and facts below will be of interest to kids and adults who want to learn about the amazing bronze art of the Shang Dynasty.
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Basic Shang Dynasty Bronze Art Facts
- The discovery of how to make bronze, which is a mixture of copper and usually tin, is what enabled the ancient Chinese people to produce metal art that was harder and more durable than previously possible. The use of bronze was not limited to art these ancient people found many applications for it including weapons and chariots.
- Bronze was a very precious commodity to these ancient people. Art made of bronze was usually only obtainable by royalty or those who were wealthy; not the common people. Owning objects made of bronze was a sure sign of wealth and power.
- Greatly due to the durability of bronze thousands of Shang bronzes have survived the ages. These artworks appear in museums and private collections throughout the world.
- Numerous well preserved masks made of bronze, featuring the Chinese mythical creature the taotie, have been discovered. These masks were worn by priest when they communicated with the spirits of ancestors.
- Animals were a common motif on Shang Dynasty Bronze art. These animals were often completely imaginary, such as dragons, or composites of two or more real animals.
- The most frequently seen subject on the bronze art of this age is a monster called the taotie. This imaginary animal looks like a dragon with horns, huge eyes, and a large mouth. Numerous Taotie mask made of bronze that were made during this dynasty have been discovered. The monsters face would be split on the mask creating two profiles.
- Perhaps the most famous Shang Dynasty bronze works of art are their bronze vessels.
- Bronze objects played an important role in Shang Dynasty ceremonies. These ancient people believed they could communicate with their deceased ancestors. The rulers and priest would communicate with the ruler’s ancestors in ceremonies that often involved bronze vessels and the wearing of taotie mask made of bronze.
- To produce the quantity of bronze art that the Shang Dynasty produced the people of this period must have worked very hard to obtain the raw materials needed. Without the use of modern-day equipment mining must have been extremely difficult with laborers venturing deep into dangerous mines and dragging heavy sleds of ore long distances.
- Archaeological digs at the site of the last capital of the Shang Dynasty Yin has unearthed thousands of beautiful bronze artifacts. Located in the Henan province near the modern-day city of Anyang this is one of China's oldest archeological sites.
Method Used to Create Shang Dynasty Bronze ArtThe people of the Shang Dynasty reached a level of bronze casting seen nowhere else in the world at that time. The Chinese artisans of the Shang Dynasty utilized a method called piece-mold casting to produce their beautiful bronze works. The basic steps of this method are as follows:
- Make a clay model of the object being created (for example a mask).
- Wait for the clay model to harden.
- Press soft clay around the hard clay mold (creates a negative impression of the object).
- Remove the outer clay in carefully cut pieces (thus the name piece-mold) to create casting molds.
- The original clay model is then shaved down in order to create a core piece.
- The pieces are reassembled around the core that was just shaved. This results in a thin gap between the core and outer wall.
- Molten bronze is poured into the gap between the core and the outer wall.
- After the bronze cools and hardens the outer wall and core are broken and the bronze object is released.
- The bronze object is polished to produce the final work of art.