Elegant Offering: a Glimpse of Later Bronze Culture Through Chen Hongshou's Art

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The role of bronzes gradually changed throughout Chinese history from the period of the Xia, Shang and Zhou of three thousand years ago, collectively known as the Three Dynasties, through the Song dynasty of the Chinese culture renaissance to the Ming dynasty, which was a period of social openness, thriving culture and widespread commercialization. The diverse aspects of Chinese bronze at various historical stages explicitly convey that the cultural context of each time period is distinct from others. Bronzes were variously ritual vessels to be worshiped and buried underground for ancestral blessings; great monuments to document past glories of heroes and sage kings; carriers of significant historical records awaiting to be deciphered by the descendants of the Central Plains; symbols of widespread Confucian moral teaching and embodiments of the mandate of Heaven; iconographies of popular culture that appeared in paintings, printing manuals, porcelain designs, architectural ornaments and even garment patterns; as well as purely luxury consumption goods. My curiosity about bronze culture was aroused by the late Ming literati and professional artist Chen Honghou (1598-1652) and his captivating works that depict the rich coloration of metalworks in various interior spaces. I intend to explore and to understand the story behind these bronze objects, trying to answer a series of questions: why did artists such as Chen Hongshou choose to depict bronze antiquities, for what reasons and purposes? Why are they so visually attractive? Was Chen the first artist to pay attention to them? What subtle message did these bronze objects convey within the late Ming material culture milieu?


Type of resource text
Date created [ca. August 2019]


Author Jiang, Xinyue
Primary advisor Vinograd, Richard
Degree granting institution Stanford University, Stanford Global Studies, Center for East Asian Studies


Subject Stanford
Subject East Asian Studies
Subject Ming dynasty
Subject Chen Hongshou
Subject later bronze
Subject Chinese art history
Genre Thesis

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Jiang, Xinyue. (2019). Elegant Offering: a Glimpse of Later Bronze Culture Through Chen Hongshou's Art . Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: https://purl.stanford.edu/cd573ty3552


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