The Bronze Age began in China around 2000 B.C. and this period saw the expansion and maturity of a culture and massive civilization that was continued in its fundamental aspects for almost 2000 years. The course of urbanization brought out a new social order and ritualization generated statecraft and social cohesion. Therefore during this age, the majority of the early ritual equipment was prepared by the use of bronze. There were two main ancient vessels used by the china dynasties namely the Hu vessel and You Vessel. The Hu vessel was molded in the 9th century while the You vessel was created in the 12-13th centuries BCE.
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Both vessels were molded out of bronze metal and they were ritual paraphernalia or rather practical utensils only used by the Zhou and Xia Shang Dynasties and they symbolized authority and status of the leuds and emperors. Moreover, both ritual wares had a full interior capacity for holding wine and also a broad aperture for drinking. The two vessels appear similar to each other in shape in terms of both having handles, rectangular-shaped heavy bases, and more so the proportions of both vessels looks similar. It is worth noting that the two vessels have a geometric décor and also make use of dragon shaping in their structure.
The bronze Hu vessel is in a pear shape, and almost half of it to the top takes the shape of a rectangle whereas the remaining half to the bottom takes a circular shape similar to a jug. The vessel has a broad mouse and a neck that is flat and short in height. The You vessel possesses a flat rectangular bottom with sharp corners whereas the bronze Hu vessel has a more or less rectangular base but with curved corners. The top part of the You vessel is circular and its neck is circular and long. The Hu vessel owns two small handles placed in both two opposite sides and each handle has a ring stuck into it while the You utensil has knobs fixed on both sides to one handle which curves across the top. In addition, the You vessel has a cover at the mouth but the Hu vessel doesn’t possess a lid. Generally, the You utensil has a body that is angular excluding the lid which is round while the Hu vessel has a quadrangle round shaped body.
The dimensions of You vessel is 15 1/2" in Height; 4 1/2” in Diameter, while the Hu vessel has a Height of 23 ½” and the Width of the bottom is 7 ¾” (Shang and Zhou Dynasties, n.p.). Therefore it is crystal clear that the U vessel is larger than the You vessel. In terms of animals shapes applied in both vessel structures; the You vessel is seen to use animal shapes in its lid and knob whereas the He vessel uses animal shapes in its handles and body. The Hu utensil possesses a body that has thick intense waxy furnishings but on the other hand the You vessel appears to be thinly imprinted with dragon’s overlap outline and animal icon in its knob and also body. For this reason, the You vessel appears to have a smoother exterior than the Hu utensil and it is simply because the decorations in on the You vessel are engraved while those on the body of the Hu vessel are sticking out.
The two vessels were ritual utensils but each one had a specific functionality. The bronze Hu was specifically used as a ritual wine utensil whereby some of them would be positioned inside the grave of a predecessor as an element of a ceremony feast so as to ensure that the ancestor’s spirit favored the dynasty. On the other hand, the You vessel was exclusively used in fluid ritual offerings by the Chinese dynasties of Shang and Zhou.
The bronze vessels were majorly dominant during the Zhou and Shang dynasties. The You vessel was founded during the reign of the Shang dynasty even though it was also used during the Zhou empire. The changes in political order in china during those ancient times highly influenced the alteration of the ritual wares towards representing the emperors and the mighty. For instance, the Hu vessel which came into existence during the 9th BCE a complex art work than the You vessel. The You vessel just had a rectangle shape but more artistic work and décor is witnessed in the Hu bronze vessel where two dragon shaped handles are fixed on opposite sides of the vessel and also more complex zoomorphic icons like shapes of sheep, dragon, ox, rhinos, and even tiger are crafted on the exterior of the vessel. This shows mastery of the artwork and technological advancement or rather manufacturing skills during the Zhou dynasty.
The You vessel commonly known as the liquid vessel has several variants where one of them had a quadruped base and also had zoomorphic designs of owls and these designs changed in design to become a single based vessel and also include dragon engravings. The Hu vessel underwent tremendous transformation during the Zhou dynasty whereby the vessel’s style changed and the plain Taotie designs were substituted by weighty, smoothed relief shapes on a basic ground. Additionally, the vessels increased considerably in size larger than their Shang ancestors. Due to cultural interactions between Chinese and Central Asian nomads between 770-476 BCE, the designs of the Hu vessel were influenced by the animal technique art emanating from these Central Asian nomads and therefore the décor changed to imitate animals like sheep and ox.
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