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Chinese, circa 17th/18th century
height 10.25” (26cm) Width 6.75” (17cm) Depth 5” (12.5cm)
Stock No. 1084
These vessels were cast in bronze using the ancient piece mould process, whereby a model of the finished item was made from clay and allowed to harden. Then wet clay was pressed around the dried model and cut away when nearly set, creating a negative. The original model would then be shaved back to a slightly smaller size and little bronze or copper pieces called chaplets would support it as it was placed inside the hollow negative. Molten bronze would then be poured between the two layers and once the bronze had hardened, the clay could be broken away, leaving a dish intact.
The decoration upon almost all ding is that known as taotie, an image of a symmetrical mask, possibly originally intended to depict ancient face masks that may have been worn by either shamans or god-kings who were considered the link between humans and their deceased ancestors. Chinese myth also portrays the taotie as a mysterious monster. There is no conclusive evidence about the meaning of the use of this form of decoration, but as it appears almost exclusively on ritualistic bronzes, it can be deduced that there is some ceremonial implication with its use. The taotie mask is presented with protruding eyes and usually sits on a background of ‘leiwen’, a bed of juxtaposed square spirals known as the thunder design. It is also accompanied by depictions of the ‘kui’ dragon, symbol of good fortune and royalty.