The transition from the Shang period (around 1600 – around 1050 BC) to the Zhou period (around 1050 – 256 BC) has political and social consequences. While King Shang held his power from a ritual monopoly, that of the Zhou owes its power to a coalition of clans that enabled him to overthrow the previous dynasty. The intellectual and religious frameworks, however, seem to evolve only marginally at first. We have to wait until the middle of the 9e century before our era to note a modification of the rituals, revealed by the evolution of the archaeological sets in the tombs as well as by the changes of form and decoration of the bronzes.
From now on, the vases gui always appear in even numbers in the tomb, while the ding are odd in number. The complex Shang decorations are replaced by geometric and repetitive ribbon motifs or tracery, derived from intertwining stylized dragons. Only the handles of this gui, intended to contain food, still clearly recall the earlier animal vocabulary. The three characters at the bottom of the container indicate the name of the clan to which it belonged.
Western Zhou (c. 1050 – 771 BC), 9e – beginning of 8e century BC. AD, China
H.26,5 cm x W.44,9 cm x D.23,3 cm
Purchase from the City of Paris with the support of the Société des Amis du musée Cernuschi, 1957
Photo credit :
© Paris Museums / Cernuschi Museum