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Bronze in Chinese History

Nine Tripod CauldronsChinese Acient Tripod Cauldron

Ancient Chinese learned to use copper long time ago, old legends say that the founder of the Xia dynasty (禹) collected brozne from governor of Nine Provinces (九州)and then produced Nine Tripod Cauldrons (九鼎).  Since then Nine Tripod Cauldrons was national treasure for Xia dynasty, Shang dynasty and Zhou dynasty for over one thounsand years.

Nine Tripod Cauldrons stand for nine provinces of acient China, the kinds tried very best to keep them secret and safe.

606 BC, governor of Chu state met a prince of Zhou dynasty and ask about the weight of Nine Tripod Cauldrons, the prince answered:" the most important thing is morals, not the tripod cauldrons...our Zhou dynasty is weak now, but the gods still support us, it isn't your place to ask the weight of tripod." This is a great event at that time, because who owns the Nine Tripod Cauldrons are equal to throne, The governor dare to ask in such way, means the throne is in danger.

12 Copper Statues

Copper StatueThe man in left image is Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇), the founder of Qin dynasty (221 BC-206 BC).


--The Records of the Grand Historian (史记)

Qin Shi Huang is the first empire in Chinese history, to make sure his dynasty could last for ever, he tried very best to secure the throne. People believe he built 12 copper statues to prevent people keeping weapons.

At that time, bronze is the most common material for weapons, Qin Shi Huang forced people to hand in their weapons, which were melted and recasted as 12 huge copper statues and placed at the palace. 

The statues were in different sizes, experts evaluate the smallest statue was 30 tons in weight and 8.12 meters in height.

However, the statues failed to protect Qin dynasty, Qin Shi Huang's empire falled very fast. The statues were also destoried in the war.

Chinese Famous Bronze Relic

Mask for ancestor worship, Shang dynasty, 85.4cm*78cm

Mask for ancestor worship

Goat Drinking vessel for ancestor worship, Shang dynasty, 58.3cm in height, 34.5Kg in weight

Goat Drinking vessel for ancestor worship

Bronze drinking vessel, Shang dynasty, ​50.5cm in height, 26.2Kg in weight

Bronze drinking vessel

Turtle shape bronze souvenir, 1300 BC - 1046 BC, 10cm*21.4cm*16cm, the epigraph records a king hunting the turtle by arrow, then award it to a man.

Turtle shape bronze souvenir

Bronze percussion instrument ,Shang dynasty, 70cm in height, 67.25Kg in weight

Bronze percussion instrument

 Charcoal burning stove (770 BC-476 BC), 11.3cm*45cm*36.6cm

Bottle of Wine or Water (around 552 BC), 40.5cm in height, made for ancestor worship


Wine vessel, Spring and Autumn period (772BC - 479 BC), 29cm in height and 31.5cm in length

Bronze mirror, early Spring and Autumn period (772BC - 479 BC), diameter 6.7cm, thickness 0.35cm

Bronze mirror

Wine vessel,  early Spring and Autumn period (772BC - 479 BC), 65.5cm in height

ancient Wine vessel

Bronze Oblation for ancestor warship, Western Zhou period (1046–771 BC), 22.2cm in height

Bronze Oblation for ancestor warship

Wine vessel, Western Zhou period (1046–771 BC), 22.8cm*14.3cm*10.9cm

Bronze wine vessel

Pony Wine vessel, Western Zhou period (1046–771 BC), 32.4cm*34cm

Bronze Duck Wine Vessel, Western Zhou period (1046–771 BC), 32.4cm*34cm

Bronze Duck Wine Vessel