DIALOGUE with THE ANCIENTS showcases 100 ancient Chinese bronzes from the Collection of Shen Zhai, the Studio of Reverence. Built over four decades, the Collection covers almost all types of bronze vessels found in the entire span of Shang, Zhou and Han Dynasties, circa 1600 BC-AD 220. It is lavishly illustrated, capturing the beauty of the bronzes, with the majority featured in actual size. Each piece is documented in detail, with reference to comparable specimens and archaeological findings. Uniquely, the Catalogue includes several series of objects in chronological sequence; this enables the reader to study the evolution of form, design and technology throughout the three dynasties.
Opening with the Editor’s essay on his personal journey in forming the Collection, the volume brings together six thought-provoking essays that contribute refreshingly to the scholarship on ancient Chinese bronzes and early China. Dr Tianlong Jiao places the Shen Zhai Collection within the historical context of bronze collecting and modern Chinese archaeology. Prof Eugene Wang offers a thesis on the Hu vessel as the embodiment of life-affirming energies. Prof Li Feng makes a case for ‘archaism’ as a divergent tradition in Western Zhou. Prof Allison Miller fleshes out the new hybrid style and iconography of Han bronzes, which gave form to an all-inclusive imperial imagination.
Two iconic bronzes with animal motifs stand out: the double-headed owl zun and the gilt-bronze bear figure. Dr Wang Tao delves into the symbolism of the owl in early China, highlighting the significance of the Shen Zhai owl zun, which he traces to the transition from late Shang to early Western Zhou. Ms Sarah Wong examines the Shen Zhai bear and discusses the mythological roots of the bear motif in Han bronzes.
DIALOGUE with THE ANCIENTS will serve as a valuable reference book on ancient Chinese bronzes.