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Chinese, Korean and Japanese Bronzes
Metal-casting in the Shang and Chou periods, seen primarily in sacrificial vessels and weapons, shows the art of the Chinese Bronze Age at an extraordinary height, more varied, expressive, and technically accomplished than any other in world history. A basic factor in this greatness must have been a sense of the awesome power latent in the material used. Bronze was in everyday terms the source of the physical supremacy of the governing class, through its use in weapons and armor. At the same time it was the means by which that strength was extended to a mastery of minds. A finely worked sacrificial vessel, used in ancestor worship, was of course valued because of the costliness of the metal, and the highly paid skill of the craftsman. More fundamentally it was a symbol of the permanence of the aristocratic clan, and the unique access it possessed, through its great dead, to the forces of the unseen world.
The Iron Age revolution, which began with the substitution of a cheaper and more efficient metal in arms and tools, in the end destroyed much of the authority of bronze in the other traditional fields as well. The Han dynasty marks both the full accomplishment of the technological change, and the end of the art of ritual vessels. The medium remained an important one for newer artistic uses in large part because of its still unsurpassed aesthetic possibilities, and the long accumulated skill of the bronze workshops. In the two directions best represented in the Auriti collection, Buddhist figure sculpture and mirror-back decoration, it may well be also that some me asure of the ancient aura of mystery still survived to give the work a power beyond its visual appeal.
Foreword by G. Tucci
Chinese and japanese names and titles
List of illustrations
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