The Bronze Age

The Bronze Age

Concept statement

This exhibition at the Museum of Chinese History features bronze implements from ancient China. The exhibit has pieces that have been borrowed from other museums around the country and is now being presented at the Museum of Chinese History. Around the year 3000 B.C., the skill of bronze casting was first developed, and China was one of the first nations in the world to adopt it. The finest form of bronze consists of copper as the primary component, along with a number of additional metals. When it came to the production of commodities, bronze was a prevalent material in ancient China. It was used often at occasions ranging from festivals to violent encounters. During the Bronze Age in China, a ceremonial jar made of bronze functioned as the principal representation of governmental authority. When it comes to the construction of weapons, bronze, in its purest form, is a material that is both stronger and more durable than copper. Because bronze is an alloy, it can be melted and forged in a number of different ways. This enables artisans to manufacture products that may be put to a wide variety of purposes and have a wide range of aesthetic appeal. Certain bronze handicrafts from ancient China have weighty and powerful aesthetic characteristics, and these bronzes are defined by their well-carved forms and intricately ornamented surfaces. The Chinese bronze age boasts of a period of immense historical wealth, an era that will be greatly highlighted in this project to let others better understand bronze, its use, and importance in Chinese history.

The current project focuses on creating an exhibition that will curate 50 artefacts from the Chinese bronze age. The objects chosen were all once very useful and a large part of the Chinese culture. They are all unified by bronze being the primary material. All of the 50 items will be sourced from the Chinese History Museum. The studio specializes in creating interiors for learning spaces, libraries, museums, and galleries. It is impossible to overstate the significance of individual student research, which was the main factor in the creation of the inner space and shape. As part of this project, an exhibition around the Chinese History Museum will presented. The museum is notable not because of its size and scope, but rather because of how it was built, how it rotates, and how it has gathered various books and vaults. The arrangement gives visitors to the exhibition rooms something different from what they were expecting while also breaking up the city to make it appear livelier. The layout aims to give the city a more vibrant feel. This project’s objective is for me to write a research paper that will act as the basis for my design work. This document’s final product, a design brief, will be a response to the studio overview that was earlier presented. The category of this project is represented by the idea of a museum. More specifically, the design will be inspired by the items that are currently on display at the Museum of Chinese History. For tourists interested in the past of the area’s traditions and customs, kilns, ruins, and journeys through time are all a part of the educational experience that will be presented in a virtual museum format and design.

Curatorial statement

It is thought that between 6000 and 5000 B.C. was the first time bronze was utilized. By melting and combining different components made of metal, people have been able to construct tools with a broad diversity of structural shapes and functional capabilities ever since ancient times. Bronze is one of the numerous names that are given to the alloy that is created when copper and tin are mixed together. Smelting is the procedure that joins together the fundamental elements that make up bronze. These materials include pure copper and tin-gold. The people of China have, throughout the course of the country’s 5,000-year history, established a complete system for creating bronze, which has found use in farming, industry, and even warfare. The majority of bronze artifacts found in China are containers that were used in ceremonies. These vases are characterized by their ornate ornamentation, which contribute to their aura of sophistication.

The Chinese civilization expanded swiftly and through a number of significant changes between the end of the Neolithic Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age. The discovery of natural reserves of copper and tin, which were required to produce bronze, was one of the factors that contributed to this shift. The earliest foundries were created in northern China about 1700 BCE (Liu et al., 2019). They were able to heat the ores to the point where they could be combined and utilized to produce metal. One of the earliest foundries was at Anyang, which served as the capital of the late Shang dynasty from 1300 to 1050 BCE (Liu et al., 2019). Anyang was the capital at the time. It was a location that was both huge and confusing. Since 1928, archaeologists have been fascinated with the city of Anyang, which is located in the north-northeast corner of the province of Henan. The site goes back to the Bronze Age, when it housed a sizable community as well as the massive graves of twelve kings. Bronzes of extremely high quality have been discovered in some of the graves of affluent individuals that have not been tampered with (Jaang, 2022). Despite the fact that all of the royal cemeteries had been stolen hundreds of years before, some tombs had not been touched.

The fact that bronzeware was both a badge of grandeur in its day and put to practical use in bygone eras gives it a special place in the annals of history. The ruling class had an easy-to-use instrument at its disposal with which it could keep its grasp on power since it had a monopoly on the raw materials and the know-how to transform them into bronze. In ancient China, metal artifacts were often embellished with gold, inlays, and paints of various colors. Visitors to the exhibition could take away something useful from the bronze items on display in the form of a deeper comprehension of the many historical processes that are on view. The process of bronze smelting in China has a long and profound history, and it represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of Chinese material culture. This is shown by the technical and aesthetic advancements made by the ancient Chinese bronze civilization. One piece of support for this theory is the fact that ancient China had a thriving bronze industry.

Site Analysis

Bay 15 will retain the historical element of the facility. Regarding lighting, natural light will be preserved. The original industrial design of the facility will be retained in order to offer authenticity. Additions to the lighting structure will include replacement of the roofing material to have translucent roofing to allow in more natural lighting. As part of adding some modern enhancements, LED lighting will be installed not just as a supplement but also as a way to raise the standard of the facility to meet modern museums. The atmosphere aimed at is a minimalist design, with museum pieces placed strategically across the vast floor design. The idea is to focus all of the attention on the individual bronze pieces in display.

The Development Process of Bronze

Foundries were first developed in northern China. This allowed the people who lived there to reap the advantages of the Bronze Age before those in the south. Following it, there were significant changes in both social and political life as a result of the rise of powerful economic and political civilizations. People modified their farming and fighting methods by converting from metal tools and weapons to stone tools and weapons, which survive longer than metal. As a result, individuals began conducting business in distant locations. The traditions used to respect ancestors, such as placing flowers on their graves and eating special feasts, became increasingly intricate over time (Jaang, 2022). Wine and grains were stored in exquisite metal pots with complex decorations for these feasts. Wine and grains were stored in these vessels. Simple symbols that represented a family or clan were gradually supplanted by more elaborate pictographs that detailed in-depth accounts about significant historical events as the Chinese writing system progressed. These magnificent bronzes may reveal more than simply how culture and art have evolved through time and how history has unfolded.

China began an era known as the Bronze Age about 2000 B.C., which lasted for a long length of time. During this historical period, a civilization began to take shape that would largely retain its structure for the next 2,000 years (Liu et al., 2019). Urbanization and the formation of a social order occurred together in the first phases of this transition. This was particularly true in areas with a substantial population concentration. In China, like in other societies across the globe, rituals had the twin aim of bringing people together and, over time, teaching them how to rule. The bulk of early ritual implements were crafted from bronze, making it the most prevalent material. Because rituals played such an essential part in the formation of civilization, it is possible, if not likely, to extrapolate some of the most crucial elements of the civilizations (or at least the elites who built them) from the forms and patterns of these objects (Cheung, Jing, Tang, & Richards, 2017). This is due to the significance of rituals in the formation of civilization. This is particularly evident when considering how crucial rituals were to the overall functioning of society.

Even though the exact era that China started using metallurgy is unknown, there is substantial evidence that early bronzeworking happened in China without aid from outsiders. Despite the fact that the precise date China started utilizing metallurgy is uncertain, this is the case. This time is often referred to as the Bronze Age of China because bronze, which was created by mixing copper and tin, was used to create weapons, chariot components, and ceremonial artifacts (Cheung et al., 2017). This is because bronze plays such an important part in the evolution of things. Towards the end of the Eastern Zhou dynasty, iron was found for the first time in China.

Pre-Molding Cast

China’s first bronze production used a technique known as piece-mold casting. In contrast, the production of bronze in every other Bronze Age civilization used the use of lost wax. When anything is to be cast using a piece mold, a model of the object to be cast must first be made. Using the model, a clay mold of the object that will be cast is then created. Before the model can be removed from the mold, it must be disassembled into its component pieces. After the stage involving fire, the components are rejoined to create the mold for the casting process (Liu et al., 2019). In order to form the vessel’s entrance, a core must be put into the mold if the item being cast is a vessel. From the dawn of time until the end of the Shang dynasty, it is virtually certain that only the piece-mold method was applied in China. The creative designs could be carved or stamped directly into the inside of the mold before it was burned, which was a benefit of this approach despite the fact that it was not the easiest way to cast bronze (Liu et al., 2020). The bronzeworker was able to reproduce even the most elaborate designs in a clear and intelligible manner using this approach.

The Chinese manufactured a wide variety of ornamented ceremonial objects, musical instruments, and weapons, a custom that was maintained under the Han Dynasty (Cheung et al., 2017). They demonstrate how ancient Chinese culture used elements of science, art, and natural resources to create amazing things. Bronze was the material of choice in China’s ancient ceremonial civilization for the production of temple vessels, which were offered as sacrifices to the gods of sky, earth, mountains, and rivers. They were used for festivities, awards, and even royal burials and feasts. The durability and resistance to breaking and splitting of bronze made it an ideal material for the construction of receptacles that kings might use to reward dukes, princes, and ministers who had made significant contributions to their country or sovereign. These artifacts served as a constant reminder to succeeding generations of the achievements of their ancestors. The bronze tripod Mao Gong Ding, which is presently being shown in Taipei, was commissioned by the imperial government to be made. On the jar and the tripod, there is a total of 497 characters inscribed (Pollard et al., 2017). These and other such items will be virtually curated in the redesigned Museum of Chinese History.

Variations of Bronze in the Chinese Culture

The creative and inventive nature of the ancient Chinese may be seen in the many variations that can be found within each category. There is a wide variety of forms and styles. Gui were constructed millet containers. It looked very much like one of the newer rice bins. Others had bases in the shape of spheres, stacked above one another. The circular base was complimented by the enormous square base that some of them possessed. Ding is a cooking tool that is in the form of a tripod. Handling was simplified thanks to two knobs located on the lips. The jar was supported by three legs, which maintained it at a distance from the fire that allowed for complete cooking of the meat. Jars called “jue” that had spouts, handles, and other accessories were used to serve and heat wine. The quick warming of the wine was assisted by three legs. The bottom of the wine container used by the Zun people was either round, square, or square-based (Liu et al., 2019). The importance of balance, symmetry, and gravity was stressed in ancient Chinese bronze sculptures.

The three-dimensionality of the material is highlighted in the majority of bronze line patterns by the incorporation of a central motif and a border pattern. Ceramics produced during the Shang Dynasty had a motif known as “beast of gluttony” (Cheung et al., 2017). The embossed surface of the item resembled the profile of a single animal that combined the characteristics of two symmetrical species. The Western Zhou dynasty is generally credited for popularizing bird patterns that maintained symmetry. This remained the case. Following the middle and late dynasties of the Western Zhou, prominent motifs included chain links, fish scales, and wave patterns. Animal themes are becoming less popular. Patterns that were symmetrical were changed to designs that had band motifs or chain links repeated many times. After the middle Spring and Autumn period, which lasted from 770 to 476 BC, the popularity of vertical animal band patterns increased (Liu et al., 2019). Through the whole of the time, this trend persisted. As a complementary element to the overarching design, the Shang Dynasty border design often included depictions of clouds and lightning bolts. By the time the Western Zhou dynasty came to an end, border themes had been eliminated. Following the seasons of Spring and Autumn, “germinating grain” designs began to develop in the tile borders.

Precedent 1 Typology

The Museum of Chinese History

The primary mission of the Museum of Chinese History is to display Chinese historical objects and other materials that are relevant to this mission. The whole of the room is decorated in cool tones, and the wide use of black surfaces (including the ceiling, floor, and walls) creates the illusion that there is more area than there really is. The all-black appearance of the display cabinets serves to call attention to the antiques that are housed within while also underlining the significance of those treasures. The entire area, with its angular walls and ceilings, lends itself more well to the presentation of the exhibits that are now on view. The ambiance created by the venue’s furnishings and decorations is essential to obtaining this impact. The antiquities, such as the antique bronze tools, provide a striking contrast to the appearance of the area, which is described as having a future look due to the many splices of straight lines that are spread over the region.

Precedent 2 Typology

Multimedia Platforms

Because of the multimedia platform that the gallery has installed, the information can now be presented in a way that is not only more efficient but also more fascinating. The digital media displays inside the pavilion are interactive, giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about China’s history as they navigate the exhibition space. We are able to establish, with the help of complex algorithm parameters, which categories of information are most relevant to consumers and, as a result, get the most hits. The filtering and optimization of data relating to the bronze that is now on display is significantly helped by the presence of such a site.

Precedent 3 Typology


Displaying the work in a singular manner will make visitors more curious and inquisitive regarding why the artefacts deserve to be exhibited. Engraving and embossing were used for the very first time on bronze designs. These patterns eventually developed into deep reliefs, patterns that resembled sculptures, and inlaid motifs throughout the course of time (Cheung et al., 2017). The use of turquoise, copper, silver, and gold was common in inlays. Animals and geometric patterns using straight, diagonal, and wavy lines were often used in inlaid artwork. Their sophistication and excellent workmanship added to the allure of their appearance.


Tang dynasty: bronze mirror

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Cheng Huang life size bronze sculpture

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022.

Han dynasty: Horse and Swallow tomb sculpture

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Bodhisattva Guanyin, cast bronze with traces of gilding

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Water buffalo bronze sculpture

Sourced from National Museum of Asian Art, 2022.

Bronze-plated body armor for military use

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Bronze round shaped bell (niuzhong)

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

A knotted dragon bronze pendant ornamental item

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022.

Bronze wine container of medium size and use (Hu)

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022.

Zhou dynasty: ceremonial bronze douSource: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Larger bronze wine container and ornamental vessel

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Older wine container and liquid storage vessel (hu)

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Bronze round-shaped food serving vessel (dui)

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Bronze-winged cup with geometric designs

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Long sleeve bronze figure of a female dancer

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Wine pouring vessel (Gong)

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Ceremonial bronze fangyiSource: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Zhou dynasty: ceremonial bronze guiSource: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Ceremonial bronze gong

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022

Seated bodhisattva Maitreya bronze sculpture with hints of gilding

Source: National Museum of Asian Art, 2022.


Cheung, C., Jing, Z., Tang, J., & Richards, M. P. (2017). Social dynamics in early Bronze Age China: A multi-isotope approach. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 16, 90-101.

Cheung, C., Jing, Z., Tang, J., Yue, Z., & Richards, M. P. (2017). Examining social and cultural differentiation in early Bronze Age China using stable isotope analysis and mortuary patterning of human remains at Xin’anzhuang, Yinxu. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 9(5), 799-816.

Jaang, L. (2022). Erlitou: The Making of a Secondary State and a New Sociopolitical Order in Early Bronze Age China. Journal of Archaeological Research, 1-54.

Liu, R., Pollard, A. M., Cao, Q., Liu, C., Sainsbury, V., Howarth, P., … & Tang, J. (2020). Social hierarchy and the choice of metal recycling at Anyang, the last capital of Bronze Age Shang China. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-9.

Liu, R., Pollard, A. M., Rawson, J., Tang, X., Bray, P., & Zhang, C. (2019). Panlongcheng, Zhengzhou and the movement of metal in early bronze age China. Journal of World Prehistory, 32(4), 393-428.

National Museum of Asian Art. (2022). Bronze age casting. Available at

Pollard, A. M., Bray, P., Hommel, P., Hsu, Y. K., Liu, R., & Rawson, J. (2017). Bronze Age metal circulation in China. Antiquity, 91(357), 674-687.

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