A Discussion on Early Metals and the Origins of Bronze Casting in China

Bai Yunxiang
2003 Chinese Archaeology  
What are the origins of the very distinctive ancient Chinese bronzes?The question has long been debated among scholars and this paper attempts to investigate this difficult and demanding question by exploring the early metal objects discovered through archaeology throughout China. The term 'early metals' refers to all pre-Shang (pre-16th century BCE) metal objects found in China that are made of pure copper (hongtong 红铜, Cu), brass (huangtong 黄铜, Cu-Zn), arsenic copper (shentong 砷铜, Cu-As) and
more » ... ong 砷铜, Cu-As) and bronze (qingtong 青铜). The term 'bronzes' (qingtongqi) refers specifically to those distinctive pieces made of copper-tin (Cu-Sn), copper-lead (Cu-Pb) and copper-tin-lead (Cu-Sn-Pb) alloys. I. Evidence: Early Metalworks Discovered through Archaeology According to preliminary statistics, over 500 early metalworks have been found at over 50 locations in China. In terms of distribution, finds of early metals reach from Zhaogezhuang 昭格庄, Mouping 牟平, Shandong 山东 in the east to Yingwoshu 鹰窝树, Anxi 安西, Gansu 甘肃 in the west, and from Shijiahe 石家 河, Tianmen 天门, Hubei 湖北 in the south to Dadianzi 大甸子, Aohan 敖汉 Banner, Inner Mongolia 内蒙古 in the north. The early metalwork can be arranged in four regional groups on account of their characteristic features, archaeological context, cultural evolution, and their geographical location. The only exceptions are those finds from Xinjiang 新疆 and Hubei, for which there is uncertainty about the date of the objects or the circumstances in which they were found. Each of these regions is considered below. 1. The North-Western Region (mainly Gansu and Qinghai 青海 ). The majority of early metal works come
doi:10.1515/char.2003.3.1.157 fatcat:wj3ydsniwbfwrpzk46mnxkadle