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HOME : Chinese Art : Warring States Period : Western Han Bronze Bian Hu
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Western Han Bronze Bian Hu - FZ.343
Origin: China
Circa: 270 BC to 9 AD
Dimensions: 11" (27.9cm) high x 12" (30.5cm) wide
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Bronze

Location: UAE
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Whereas before, war was characterized as a civilized contest between aristocratic armies, during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), war evolved into the chaotic conflict we know it as today. Kings and princes were replaced on the battlefield by infantries lead by military generals. Peasants were recruited to serve on the front lines. Warfare intensified, especially in terms of the duration of campaigns. New arms and armor were invented, including the halberd and crossbow. Chariots rode alongside archers outfitted in iron helmets and body armor. Defensive walls were erected in order to repel invaders. However, despite the turmoil of the times, the arts continued to thrive. Bronze casting was revolutionized by the introduction of the lost-wax technique, while the alterations of kiln structures enabled new firing techniques that resulted in fully developed glazes.

This oval shaped Bian Hu bronze vessel is decorated with a Taotie ring holder mask chain- linked to lid through the mouth of a two-ended dragon. Due to the tumultuous times, the exact date of this vessel is hard to determine but influences from the Late Warring State/Qin transitional period and vestiges of the tradition of ritual practice is evident in the workmanship. Bronze was an especially valued material during the Warring States period for its sturdy, solid attributes to be used in casting ritual vessels and weaponry. With the victory of so-called barbarian Qin, the primary goal for the new rulers continued to be military conquest and consolidation. They introduced a new system of politics based on the ethical doctrines of Legalism which taught frugality in mortuary practices as well as in life. Thus, the hint of simplicity in this ritual vessel reflects the conservative and utilitarian thrust that emerged as a result of conversion to a new dynastic order. Used as an offering vessel in ancestral mourning and worshipping ceremonies, the Bian Hu represented one of the many styles of Hu vessels. Its simplistic beauty and symbolic representations of the dragon, a creature of power and royalty, and the Taotie, a mysterious animal-like motif common in all Chinese ancient art, must still generate reactions of awe and veneration for those who behold its essence as holy. - (FZ.343)


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