SHANG DYNASTY Anonymous
(1527 BCE - 1027 BCE)
1199 BCE-1100 BCE
12th c BCE
Washington D.C. National Gallery of Art.
The power of the emperors had begun under the SHANG, the first of the great dynasties to rule China . While dates for the beginning of the dynasty are not fully established, the culture was flourishing by 1500 BCE. It was overthrown about 1050 BCE. Theirs was a highly organized society with walled cities, temples and ceremonial quarters dedicated to the worship of the gods and the ancestors.
The excavations unearthed great numbers of the magnificent bronzes that are a mark of Shang art. These masterful bronzes, like the one you see here, were placed in the great tombs that they constructed to honor the dead. Many of the bronzes were food and wine containers that were used in ceremonies that provided communication between living and the dead.
This object is a bell that was most likely used in the ceremonies. Like the food and wine containers, it was richly decorated with enigmatic figures, many of which probably represented supernatural composite animals. A particularly popular motif, known as the TAOTIE, is represented here. It represents a horned animal mask and possibly symbolizes the transformation of life. It is important to remember the basic Chinese concept illustrated in the Book of Changes of cyclical nature of reality and the transformation of one thing into another.
SHANG | Bell (Zhong). | Shang | Chinese
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