Bronze Inscriptions


Bronze Inscriptions are the characters inscribed on the bronze ware in the Shangzhou Age. These characters are generally called as "Inscriptions on bronze" now; because inscriptions are mostly cast on the bronze tripod, it is also called as "Bronze Inscriptions". Inscriptions on bronze and inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells are the early representatives in the art of Chinese calligraphy. Most of the inscriptions on the bronze ware are cast and only a few is carved by sharp tools. The concave typeface of the characters is called as characters cut in intaglio; the raised characters are called as characters cut in relief. A lot of characters on the bronze ware are the cut in intaglio. The ancient people thought that bronze was quite firm so the inscriptions could be imperishably passed down, so the affairs that should be passed down must be cast on the bronze ware. Most bronze inscriptions recorded the name of clan ancestors or the war, politics, largess and other important historical facts at that time. Therefore, inscriptions have become the important material for the research of the ancient history.

Currently, among the unearthed bronze wares, the longest inscription is on the Tripod of Duke Mao (Mao Gong Ding) in the King Xuan Period of Western Zhou (from BC 827 to 782). It is shaped like a half-ball belly with animal-hoof feet in symmetrical proportion and elegant outline. The ornamentation is very concise, embodying the elegant and harmonious taste in the period of Western Zhou. The inscriptions cast in the tripod have four hundred and ninety-nine words in length, recording King Xuan's imperial mandate to Duke Mao.

The inscription of 290 words in 28 lines cast in the Dake Tripod in the King Xiao Period of Western Zhou is the representative work of the large seal script in the period of Western Zhou. This tripod is cast by a large noble Ke Family for sacrificing their grandfather. The first paragraph of the inscription is the eulogy of the grandfather, while the second paragraph has recorded the title and largess made conferred by the King of Western Zhou to the family and has paid a tribute to the King of Western Zhou. It is a precious material for the study of slavery in the period of Western Zhou.