Ancient Chinese Bronzes
Detailed study of Chinese Bronzes in European Collections
Studies of early bronzes are traditionally an important part of Chinese archaeological research. How and when did the Bronze Age begin in China? For decades this question has demanded a great deal of scholarly attention and discussion. The answers are still elusive.
Some believe that the knowledge and technology of making metal alloys such as bronze came to China from the West (Mesopotamia and Central Asia), along with chariots and writing. This was the dominant view in the West in the 19th and early 20th century. Although it has waned somewhat since the 1950s, it persists still in the work of a number of scholars. Others believe that bronze metallurgy developed independently in China, as a continuation of its indigenous Neolithic traditions. While such sharply contrasting views present valid points, they are disorienting and confusing for any student struggling to find their way in this field.
Another challenge is to combine the information from old collections (since the 12th century AD) and the newly excavated material. There are a number of important collections of Chinese bronzes in western collections, which are less known in China.
The project, led by Tao Wang, started as a joint venture with Liu Yu of the Beijing Palace Museum. They wanted to record early Chinese bronzes which had appeared in the international market since the beginning of the 20th century. This resulted as a publication of 350 early bronzes. The book gives each individual piece the date, brief history of the transmission, and a transcription and translation of the inscriptions found on the bronze, which made the previous unknown material as historical evidence for historical and archaeological research.
The more recent development is a detailed study of ancient Chinese bronzes in one of the most important private European collections, giving new perspectives on the state of research and up-to-date archaeological information in the field.
The next stage of the project is to investigate the collections of early Chinese bronzes in various European museums.
- Pottery to bronze: a cultural and technological transition in early China, London, Oriental Ceramic Society 2008 Annual Lecture
Publications (since 2007):
- 2007: A Selection of Inscribed Early Chinese Bronzes from Sotheby’s and Christie’s (with Liu Yu), Shanghai: Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House
- 2009: Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Meiyingtang Collections, London: Paradou Writing
- 2009: “Pottery to bronze: a cultural and technological transition in early China”, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, volume 72, pp.25-34
- 2010:“A discussion on the Eastern Zhou spade coins with reference to three specimen in the British Museum collection” (with Helen Wang), in Interpretations of Excavated Manuscripts and Transmitted Books, ed. Fudan University, Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House, pp. 131-140
- 2011: “Art of Bronze Age China”, Art of Asia, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 70-81
- Sino-British Fellowship Trust
- The Museum of the First Emperor of Qin