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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:36

Video transcript

we're here in the bronze galleries at the Shanghai Museum and we're looking at an enormous tripod ritual object that's 3,000 years old it's called a ding that's the word in Chinese it would have sat on a fire so whatever was inside could be cooked we're not talking about cooking for ordinary purposes we're talking about a vessel that was very expensive and difficult to produce and one that was made for ritual purposes you know that this is a ritual vessel even just looking at the motifs on it alone we've got the Tata animal mask motif which is common in these early bronzes and you see that motif for hundreds of years in Chinese art history it evolves and changes and we even see it earlier than this as early as the shang dynasty interestingly here this one has a stylized wave pattern and then in between that we see other patterning so it feels as though the artists did not want to leave any surface undecorated looking very deeply you see incised motifs that some have thought maybe are references to thunder we see wisps of clouds or dragon tails this idea the connection to the divine that was the purpose of this object to connect the earthly to the heavenly and more specifically the Emperor and in the Zhuo dynasty we've got this notion of a Mandate of Heaven a divine right to rule the person who could possess something like this could do those ancestral sacrifices to heaven to tnd or this heavenly deity and by making those sacrifices could ensure the safety the well-being of his people but if things didn't go well droughts famines floods successful rebellions against the ruling elite that mandate could be revoked by the divine forces and a new emperor could take his place and in fact he was the only one that would have had the power to marshal their resources necessary to make a bronze like this bronze is an alloy primarily of copper but also sometimes tin or other metals we're talking about needing to my the or melted refine and then to cast it it's such a complex technology it's such a development in human history that we call this shift the Bronze Age the dough being one period within a larger Bronze Age in China there are a couple of different types of metallurgical techniques one of these is the piece mold and that's what we're looking at here often in the West and the Renaissance and in ancient Greece and Rome we think about the lost wax method where the design is made ultimately in wax and then the wax is melted away and then bronze is poured in but this is an entirely different method that allows for greater control of the design we had lost wax also occurring around this time however you can see here that it's ceased mold because there are seams as you walk around the object you can see where the pieces were fit together each of them cast in a mold that could be reused so you have the vessel being made in clay first and then a mold being made in clay and then the bronze being poured between those clay layers each piece soldered together and you can always see that telltale line where the pieces have been fit and adjusted and one of the really exceptional things about this thing is that not only do we have these designs but we also have calligraphy we have writing on this vessel in fact we have two hundred and ninety characters inscribed from right to left and from top to bottom to bottom and many of these characters are recognizable from the Chinese language today and that's really important to think about as a major development in the Bronze Age it's not just bronze its centralized power that comes from communication and writing and only a centralized power would have been able to marshal the resources that it would have taken to create this vessel this weighs hundreds of pounds about 400 pounds it would have been carried probably by putting a pole through the handles that we see and it would only be moved if power was lost or in this case gifted to somebody who had done some noble deed and that we've learned from the characters manner inscribed on the inside we know that this was a gift from the King to this elite official with a surname of this particular ding was found in a temple but many of the bronze is from this period were found in twos so we know that they were very important objects that people wanted to bring with them into the afterlife this one we found in the 19th century but even today we are still unearthing objects that are contributing to our knowledge of these early periods I want to just end by taking a closer look at the tattoo yeah because it's such a recurring from worm you can see that it appears to have two eyes and some sort of horns swirling motifs that seem to wrap all the way around the legs even below that I see circular forms that almost feel like part of a mouth or fangs this is obviously highly abstracted and that's what scholars are still working on figuring out what exactly this data might have been you walk into the gallery and you're immediately drawn to this because one sees it on the outside of illuzzi oh yeah we just walked into a building that looks exactly like the shape of this ding and we can see that today it's still a cultural symbol for Shanghai and one of its most significant objects you