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December 13, 2009

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Bronze vessel used to store money

AMONG many ethnic tribes in China that have developed their own cultures with specific characteristics, the ancient Dian people living in Yunnan Province have thousands of years of outstanding examples.

One of their special cultural relics is "Chu Bei Qi" made of bronze which was made to store seashells used as money currency in ancient times.

In Shanghai Museum, a bronze vessel named "Qi Niu Chu Bei Qi," meaning "vessel for seashell storage with seven heads of cattle," is displayed in the bronze vessels exhibition room.

The vessel was made during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) when ancient coins already used in general currency and the seashells both gradually became precious antiques for collecting by noble Dian citizens of the time.

They manufactured the bronze vessels to store the seashells and for collecting precious items and antiques.

Most of the Dian bronze vessels bear vivid and lively ornaments that resemble everyday life, and this exhibit is no exception.

Seven cattle of different sizes and varying poses are moulded on the front of the vessel.

And two tigers are at each side of the item with their mouths wide open, looking as if they are preparing to climb up to the cover.

The vessel reflected the reality that cattle were very important in the farming life of ancient Dian people and also their greatest asset.

Even today, cattle are considered holy by some of the ethnic tribes in Yunnan Province.

The bold but delicate craftsmanship on the relic reveals the highly developed workings of artisans 2,000 years ago.

It is also a fine specimen of the cultural value that bronze held within the life of the ancient Dian people, as well as reflecting the human spirit of the era.

Dian bronze vessels constitute an important part of ancient Chinese Bronze Age history as well as being cultural relics with rich ethnic features and a unique regional style.


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