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Ceramic’s Influence on Chinese Bronze Development

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Ceramic’s Influence on Chinese Bronze Development Behzad Bavarian and Lisa Reiner Dept. of MSEM College of Engineering and Computer Science September 2007ii Photos on cover page Jue from late Shang period decorated with whorl and thunder patterns and taotie creatures, H: 20.3 cm [34]. Painted clay gang with bird, fish and axe design from the Neolithic Yangshao culture, H: 47 cm [14]. Pou vessel from late Shang period decorated with taotie creatures and thunder patterns, H: 24.5 cm [34]. Flat-based jue from early Shang culture decorated with taotie beasts. This vessel is characteristic of the Erligang period, H: 14 cm [34].iii Table of Contents Abstract Approximate timeline 1 Introduction 2 Map of Chinese Provinces 3 Neolithic culture 4 Bronze Development 10 Clay Mold Production at Houma Foundry 15 Coins 16 Mining and Smelting at Tonglushan 18 China’s First Emperor 19 Conclusion 21 References 221The transition from the Neolithic pottery making to the emergence of metalworking around 2000 BC held significant importance for the Chinese metal workers. Chinese techniques sharply contrasted with the Middle Eastern and European bronze development that relied on annealing, cold working and hammering. The bronze alloys were difficult to shape by hammering due to the alloy combination of the natural ores found in China. Furthermore, China had an abundance of clay and loess materials and the Chinese had spent the Neolithic period working with and mastering clay, to the point that it has been said that bronze casting was made possible only because the bronze makers had access to superior ceramic technology. The progress made in bronze casting due to improved process planning, refining and experimenting with vessel form and decoration were skills developed during the Neolithic Period. Advances in ceramic technology played an influential role in the evolution of Chinese bronze casting where the piece mold process was more of a technological extension of their achievements than a distinct innovation. Approximate Timeline Neolithic Period (8000-1700) BC Yangshao culture (5000-3000) BC Hongshan culture (4700-2500) BC Dawenkou culture (4300-2500) BC Liangzhu culture (3300-2200) BC Majiayao culture (3100-2700) BC Longshan culture (2600-2000) BC Qijia culture (2400 – 1900) BC Xia (2100-1600) BC Erlitou culture (1900-1600) BC Ba (2000-220) BC Bronze Age (1766-121) BC Shang (1700-1100) BC Zhengzhou phase (1600-1400) BC Erligang culture (1500-1300) BC Anyang phase (1300-1100) BC Yinxu culture (1200-1050) BC Zhou (1100-256) BC Western Zhou (1100-771) BC Eastern Zhou (770-256) BC Spring and Autumn period (770-476) BC Warring States Period (475-221) BC Qin (221-206) BC Han 206BC-200AD Tang (618-906) AD2Introduction One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of this century occurred in March 1974, near the city of Xi'an in the province of Shaanxi. Farmers digging for water unearthed part of a clay object. This activity led to the eventual excavation of the terracotta army of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi from several underground vaults. Among the contents of these excavation pits were wooden chariots, thousands of soldiers, bronze weapons and horses [1]. The wealth of historic possibility found in these earthen pits, though incredible, was just a small part of the immense (56 sq. kilometer) underground empire. The First Emperor, who ruled between 246 and 210 BC, had centralized control and formed a huge court bureaucracy to administer his empire. Qin Shihuangdi united the Chinese with one written language, standardized weights, measures, writing scripts, money, roads and even the axle widths of chariots. His most ambitious building projects included work on the first Great Wall (meant to keep out foreign invaders) and his own mausoleum where as many as 700,000 workers labored to build his palace for the afterlife [1]. Thousands of peasants and craftsmen labored in its creation for nearly 40 years. The excavated pits had been looted and all the clay figures broken, apparently by the conquering troops of the Han, soon after completion. Excavating them has been a massive undertaking and more than a thousand warriors have been reassembled [1]. The beginnings of the Chinese culture, however, began many thousands of years prior to Emperor Shihuangdi. More than 2500 years passed between the advent of metal casting in the Yangshao culture (roughly 5000 BC) and the beginnings of the Bronze Age [2]. The transition from Neolithic pottery to the emergence of metalworking (around 2000 BC) was significant for the Chinese metal workers whose techniques sharply contrasted with the Middle Eastern and European bronze development that relied on annealing, cold working and hammering. Natural resources great influenced the choices made by the Chinese. The types of copper ores that are native to China are not malleable; the bronze alloys were difficult to shape by hammering. China has large amounts of clay and loess (a yellowish-brown colored silt, the Chinese refer to as yellow earth). The Chinese were adept at working with clay. Advances in ceramic technology played an influential role in the progress of Chinese bronze casting where the piece mold process was more of a technological extension than a distinct innovation. Before the invention of the potter's wheel, vessels were formed by hand. Clay was coiled into ropes and then carefully smoothed using tools on the exterior and inside wall. Neolithic pots were fired in kilns dug in the ground. Yangshao kilns had pierced floors to allow better circulation of heat and air [1]. Invention of the fast wheel, around 3000 B.C. by the Dawenkou and Longshan cultures, meant that potters could make thin-walled, evenly formed vessels, and with greater speed. Later, some pottery shapes were mass produced using molds. The idea of heating clay to harden probably came about after raw clay had been left next to a hearth. Firing within a confined space (kiln) permitted further experimentation with different firing temperatures, raw materials and decoration. The development of freestanding kilns in the Bronze Age led to higher temperatures and stronger vessels. Shapes became more refined and eventually, glazes were added that made the clay impermeable to liquids [1].3Prior to the discoveries made in the late 20th century,


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