Chinese Bronze Fang Ding or Sacrificial Vessel
Chinese Bronze Fang Ding or Sacrificial Vessel

Chinese Bronze Fang Ding or Sacrificial Vessel

17th century to 18th century China

Offered by Baggott Church Street Ltd

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Rectangular upon four cylindrical legs. A loop handle to each end and flanges to each corner and side, the ding is cast in relief on all four sides with a ‘taotie’ mask, with a background of ‘leiwen’, the thunder motif depicted by juxtaposed square spirals. Above each taotie mask there are depicted ‘kui’, a Chinese dragon symbol of good fortune and royalty. A collar to the upper section of each leg, each decorated with kui and leiwen and with a flange to the outside edge. The fang ding is a sacrificial vessel that is the most highly regarded of all Chinese bronzes.
Chinese, circa 17th/18th century
height 10.25” (26cm) Width 6.75” (17cm) Depth 5” (12.5cm)
Stock No. 1084
The fang ding are ancient rectangular cauldrons standing on four legs and with two facing handles. They were traditionally used for cooking, storing and for ritual offerings to either gods or ancestors in family temple ceremonies. As their purpose changed from religious to secular in the Zhou dynasty (1046-256BCE), the ding began to represent power and status and the possession of one or more ancient dings is often associated with power and dominion over the land. An emperor would be entitled to the greatest number of ding and could be buried with nine, whilst a scholar-bureaucrat would be entitled to three or one. In Chinese culture, therefore, the ding is used as an implicit symbolism of power.

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.
Stock Code
1084
Baggott Church Street Ltd

Baggott Church Street Ltd
Church Street
Stow-on-the-Wold
Gloucestershire
GL54 1BB
England

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