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Title: The bronze weapons of the Late Shang period
Author: Chen, Fang-mei
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 1997
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Bronze weapons are one of the two most important products of the Chinese Bronze Age. Both ritual vessels and weapons were utilized for the two most crucial affairs of the state during the Bronze Age in China. From 1937 up to the present day, a period of almost sixty years, archaeologists have continuously been revealing a more detailed picture of Yinxu bronze culture. In comparison with bronze ritual vessels, the bronze weapons of Bronze Age China remain relatively unexplored. On the basis of the archaeological excavations the Late Shang bronze weapons in this thesis have been studied from the points of view of the history of bronze art, sacrificial rituals and cultural relationships between Anyang and the peripheral areas. The Late Shang period was a turning point in bronze weaponry. Clear changes occurred in their quantity, quality and regional distribution. The bronze weapons became a common element among the tomb furnishings. This reflects parallels between the development of weapons and political and social changes. The transformation from the use of jade to the use of bronze for weapons, could reflect the formation or increase of a certain class which required a burial to include bronze weapons. For reasons of social or political status members of this class received a degree of ritualized burial. At the same time, the high-ranking members of the military had their own ritual code for burial, producing a situation where weapons and status were even more subtly differentiated. Bronze weapons were not widely and relatively densely distributed in China until the Late Shang period. There was an imbalance in the distribution of Late Shang bronze weapons and Anyang was one of the largest centres. The importance of the bronze ge in the burial system at Anyang was established. At the same time, the rudiments of regional characteristics are clearly seen in this period in regions outside Anyang and regional styles of the bronze weapon became obvious. The distribution of regional styles of bronze weapons reflects the very important cultural phenomenon that some regional characteristics are limited to a single area. Other indigenous styles are not restricted to their area of origin, but are dispersed over wider regions, typically encompassing two or more areas creating "a phenomenon where distinct cultural regions share selective stylistic characteristics." In contrast to those regional styles of bronze weapons which are limited in their range of distribution, the metropolitan style centered around Anyang was distributed over a much larger area. A complex system of designs on the bronze weapons was formed and a new phase in casting techniques was achieved through the changes of their social and political roles. There was an increase in the diversity of their types and forms. The various motifs, the inlay, openwork and mixing materials were used in the art of bronze weapons. The bronze weapons in Late Shang, as manifestations of artistic, political, and social phenomenon, found their place in the art history of bronzes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral