Ornaments on the Bronze Ware


The ornaments on the bronze ware are an important element of the spiritual content of the bronze ware. The effect of the bronze ware design on human sense is a formative element, while the ornaments on it represent the specific image of the interweaving of mythology and reality.

The ornaments on Chinese bronze ware are rich in content: animal patterns are the representatives, and plant patterns, cloud-and-thunder patterns, geometric patterns, human face patterns etc can also be found. The ornaments often give off a solemn and mysterious atmosphere, which may have something to do with the function of the bronze ware – sacrificial and ritual articles in ancient China. The Chinese ancestors believed that the design of the ornaments could communicate with divinities and frighten demons as well. Therefore, to enshrine the bronze ware in the temple would do something good to them – either bring them good luck or ward off evil spirits.

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Animal Mask Design

Most books on bronzes in the Song and succeeding dynasties used the term Taotie - a terrifying tabled cannibal beast - to name all animal mask designs on bronze vessels.

Dragon Design

The dragon design is the most enduring among all motifs, also called kui design or kui long design.

Phoenix Design

The phoenix design is also a common pattern on bronzes.

Animal Design

Animal designs referred here include tigers, oxen, elephants, deer, rabbits, fishes...

Metamorphosed Animal Design

Traditional designs such as the complete figure of the dragon and the phoenix grew gradually less popular over the years and certain parts of different animals were extracted to form new patterns.

Geometric Design

Patterns formed by dots, lines and circles are called geometric design.

Painting Design

Breaking away from the stereotyped symmetrical decoration patterns, people began to use the art of painting to engrave on the bronzes.