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Gallery Text

At its most basic level, casting bronze entails pouring a molten mixture of copper and tin into a mold and letting the mixture harden as it cools. In ancient China, the actual process was quite complex and involved ceramics technology in virtually every step. First, a model of the desired shape was created in clay and fired in a kiln; next, fresh clay was packed around this ceramic model, removed in multiple sections, and fired; and finally, the hardened section molds created in this process were reassembled around a ceramic core with space set between core and molds, and molten bronze was poured into this assemblage. The production of bronzes in China was inextricably linked to the region’s millennia-long ceramics tradition — in its use of kiln technology, its adaptation of ceramic vessels for bronze vessel shapes (such as the tripod ewer displayed here), and the creation of a casting method reliant on a potter’s skills.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Long Turquoise-Inlaid Dagger-Axe with Curved Haft
Ritual Implements
Work Type
14th-11th century BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Shang dynasty, c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Bronze with turquoise inlay
L. 40.2 x W. 9.4 x Thickness 1.0 cm (15 13/16 x 3 11/16 x 3/8 in.)
[C. T. Loo & Co., New York, October 1, 1940] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1940-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Exhibition History

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 11/23/2008

32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014 - 01/01/9999

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu