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Art of China - Bronzes


The Chinese had mastered bronze making already in the 2nd millennium B.C. Bronze was used to cast ritual vessels, weapons, tools, coins and items for personal adornment. With archaeological excavations of tombs in China in recent decades and subsequent research both by Chinese and Western scholars, we have witnessed an increasing number of works and reports published on bronzes. This section also lists works on other Chinese metalwork, such as gold, silver and cloisonne.

Bagley, Robert W. Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.

First of the three volumes in the series Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, it lists 104 bronze pieces attributed to the Shang period (2nd half of the 2nd millennium B.C.) The author=s scholarship, detailed analysis and review of previous studies of the subject has made the book a leading source for studying Chinese bronze in general and bronze technology in particular.

_____. AShang Ritual Bronzes: Casting Techniques and Vessel Design,@ Archives of Asian Art 43 (1990), p. 6-20.

An updated and shorter summary of issues discussed in the above book, related to the author=s 1981 dissertation Bronze Casting in the Shang Period, focusing both on metallurgical techniques and artistic aspects.

_____. Hou-ma t=ao fan i shu = Art of the Houma Foundry. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

A pictorial survey of two centuries of Chinese bronze decoration as recorded in casting debris excavated from Houma Foundry, the largest foundry site in the world. The book was the winner of the 1996 Shimada prize.

Brinker, Helmut and Albert Lutz. Chinese Cloisonne: The Pierre Uldry Collection. New York: The Asia Society Galleries, 1989.

Translated from the 1985 exhibition catalog of the Reitberg Museum, Zurich, the catalog is fully illustrated with a lengthy discussion on the art form. Also included is a useful chart of historical events of the Ming and Qing and a glossary of decorative motifs.

Bunker, Emma C. AGold in the Ancient Chinese World: a Cultural Puzzle,@ Artibus Asiae 53, no. 1-2 (1993), p. 27-50. and AThe Enigmatic Role of Silver in China,@ Orientations, vol. 25, no. 11 (Nov. 1994), p. 73-78.

Discusses gold and silver in China.

Chase, W. Thomas. Ancient Chinese Bronze Art: Casting the Precious Sacral Vessel. New York: China House Gallery, 1991.

Formerly head of Department of Conservation and Scientific Research of the Freer and an expert on bronzes, the author wrote this exhibition catalog on the techniques of bronze casting.

Chinese Bronzes of Yunnan, forward by Jessica Rawson. London: Sidgwich and Jackson, 1983.

Focuses on Chinese bronzes from one province, Yunnan, and their characteristics.

Delbanco, Dawn Ho. Art from Ritual: Ancient Chinese Bronze Vessels from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1983.

Catalog of an exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum in 1983, a much slimmer volume compared to the three works in the series Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections.

Falkenhausen, Lothar von. Suspended Music: Chime-bells in the Culture of Bronze Age China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

In 1977/78 the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng (d. ca. 433 B.C.) was discovered in Hubei Province and more than 7000 items were excavated, among them 65 bronze bells. This is a comprehensive overview of historical information on chime-bells, types, physical properties, technology, and musicological aspects for study of early Chinese music.

The Great Bronze Age of China: an Exhibition from the People=s Republic of China, edited by Wen C. Fong. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1980.

A catalog of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other U. S. museums, with focus on the Shang and Zhou dynasties, displaying important recent archaeological finds. The work not only describes carefully the objects of bronze and jade, such as bronzes from Lady Fu Hao=s tomb, but also gives a valuable assessment of the contribution they have made to our understanding of the Bronze Age.

The Great Bronze Age of China: A Symposium, edited by George Kuwayama. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1983.

Consists of 10 scholarly papers delivered at the May 1981 symposium in conjunction with the above-mentioned exhibition.

Kelley, Clarence W. Chinese Gold and Silver in American Collections: Tang Dynasty, A.D. 618-907. Dayton, Ohio: Dayton Art Institute, 1984.

Catalog of a traveling exhibition of Tang gold and silver.

Kerr, Rose. Later Chinese Bronzes.[Victoria and Albert Museum Far Eastern series] London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990.

One of the few books on later Chinese bronzes, the work concentrates on the Ming and Qing periods, includes a discussion on inlaid decoration, metal-works, fakes and forgeries.

Lawton, Thomas. Chinese Art of the Warring States Period: Change and Continuity, 480-222 B.C. Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art, 1982.

Catalog of an exhibition in 1982/83, describing bronze, jades and lacquer pieces of the Warring States period from the Freer collections. As is typical of the author each object is thoroughly researched and documented, with bibliographical references.

Li, Hseh-ch=in. Chinese Bronzes, a General Introduction [Chung-kuo ch=ing t=ung ch=i kai shuo. English] Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1995.

As the title indicates it is a general history of Chinese bronzes, tracing back to its origin, its development, inscriptions on vessels, motifs, techniques of casting, and various shapes. The author is one of the renowned authorities on Chinese bronzes and has conducted research on Chinese bronzes in collections outside of China.

MacKenzie, Colin. Southern Traditions of Bronze-work in China During the Eastern Zhou Period (770-221 B.C.) Ph.D. thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1990.

The study surveys the development of regional traditions including Hubei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan provinces, describing their distinctive styles which evolved from local traditions.

Mowry, Robert D. China=s Renaissance in Bronze: the Robert H. Clague Collection of Later Chinese Bronzes 1100-1900. Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 1993.

The essay-like entries for objects of the exhibition organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, and the extensive notes and bibliographies serve as a guide for identifying later bronze pieces.

Munsterberg, Hugo. Chinese Buddhist Bronzes. New York: Hacker, 1988. Reprint of the 1967 edition.

O=Donoghue, Diane M. AReflection and Reception: the Origins of the Mirror in Bronze Age China,@ Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 62 (1990), p. 5-183.

Originally the author=s Ph.D. thesis, the work documents the origins of bronze mirrors and their production during the Zhou and the Warring State periods, based on archaeological finds from the 1950s to 1980s.

Owyoung, Steven D. Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Saint Louis Art Museum. St. Louis: The St. Louis Art Museum, 1997.

The work is not only a catalog of the museum=s ancient Chinese bronze collection, but also has an essay by Thomas Lawton on Chinese bronze collections and catalogs outside of China and the collecting of these bronzes. It also includes technical analyses.

The Problem of Meaning in Early Chinese Ritual Bronzes (Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia ; no. 15), edited by Roderick Whitfield. London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 1993.

Papers focus on the meaning of the Shang and Zhou bronze motifs, especially the taotie motif.

Rawson, Jessica. Chinese Bronzes: Art and Ritual. London: British Museum Publications, 1987.

This work is a catalog accompanying an exhibition of bronzes from the British Museum. The objects were chosen to illustrate the artistic and technological achievements of Chinese bronze casting from 1500 B.C. to the end of the 3rd century B.C. The essay highlights the characteristics of each period from the Shang to the Zhou, followed by detailed catalog entries.

_____. Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection. Washington, DC: The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1990.

Second in the series Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, the 2-volume work covers the period of Western Zhou (11th c.-771 B.C.)

_____ and Emma C. Bunker. Ancient Chinese and Ordos Bronzes. Hong Kong: Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, 1990.

Catalog of an exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, with detailed descriptions of the objects of Chinese and Ordos bronzes, their characteristics and changing values.

Shaughnessy, Edward L. Sources of Western Zhou History: Inscribed Vessels. Berkeley: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Aims at providing a comprehensive introduction to the inscribed bronzes of the Western Zhou dynasty (1045-771 B.C.). The work also demonstrates the value of the inscriptions as historical documents. Major reference works available in the field, a survey of techniques of casting inscribed bronzes, and problems surrounding their authenticity are also included.

So, Jenny. Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. New York: The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in association with the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1995.

The 3rd in the series Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, the work covers the period of Eastern Zhou (770-221 B.C.)

_____ and Emma C. Bunker. Traders and Raiders on China=s Northern Frontier. Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995.

Catalog of an exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the work is the result of recent studies on intercultural contacts between the ancient Chinese and the tribes to their north, covering the background, trade and contact, luxury exports, and belt ornaments, most of them made of bronze or metal.

White, Julia and Emma C. Bunker. Adornment for Eternity: Status and Rank in Chinese Ornament. Denver: Denver Art Museum, 1996.

Catalog of an exhibition of 113 objects of adornment as indicators of status and rank in ancient society. Prominent on display were objects of gold and silver.

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revised 11 October 2000


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