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September 20, 2009

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Grain storage from the Bronze Age

THE Shang Dynasty, the second dynasty in Chinese history, was in the middle of China's Bronze Age from around the 16th to the 11th century BC.

The ordinary daily commodities people used at that time were quite different from those we are familiar with.

This bronze vessel, probably made between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, was called "pou" in Chinese, and was used to hold grain.

This "pou," with four heads of sheep castings on the shoulder, was named "Si Yang Shou Pou," which means a "pou" with four sheep heads.

The vessel is 38.8 centimeters high, and weighs 1.4 kilograms. The most eye-catching part of the vessel is certainly the sheep heads with curved horns.

The eyes of sheep, which are exaggerated artistically, project especially noticeably.

According to academic researches, the body of the vessel was moulded first, leaving holes for the heads, and then moulds were placed on the holes for casting the sheep heads.

Therefore some of the patterns on the body of the vessel are covered up. The bold look of the sheep heads makes the vessel seem more grand and powerful.

At each side of the sheep heads are carved images of dragons, while between every two sheep heads, there is a phoenix perching on the jar.

In the Shang Dynasty, the dragon was considered the god of rain, while the phoenix was the god of wind.

Images of dragons and phoenixes are frequently seen on Shang bronze vessels, because the weather was a major influence on a society very much dependent on agriculture.

There are patterns of round nail heads on the body of the vessel, which are the symbolic patterns for containers of food and grain.

The shape of the vessel and the patterns all over its body largely indicate the characteristics and style of bronze vessels discovered along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.


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