Shanghai Museum is one of China's most famous museums of ancient art. It has a collection of various types of 140,000 pieces of precious cultural relics, ten categories of which are on display. These cultural relics are carefully selected by our experts for your appreciation and your visit. Due to the large number of cultural relics on display, and the limited visiting time, you must be quite concerned about how to appreciate some of the best works in each gallery during your tour. This is a catalogue of cultural relics of special significance. They are remarkable for their craftsmanship and appearance. We hope you can enjoy the best works of ancient Chinese art history through this tour, and come to love and care more about our Museum.
1Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Late Xia (18th - 16th century BC)
Dimensions: Full Length 35.6 cm, Blade Width 33.2 cm, Thickness 9 mm
Weight: 5,160 g
Material: BronzeIntroductionThis broad-axe is thick and solid, inlaid with delicate and beautiful decorations which are very well preserved. There are two rectangular holes on the body for leather straps to pass through to fix wooden handle.
Yueis a long-handled arc-bladed hacking weapon, as well as an instrument of torture. This function was clearly manifested in the pictographic characters of head-chopping on the inscriptions of bronzes. However, some Yuelike this large and heavy broad-axe, with flat end and edgeless blade, without any trace of use, are assumed to be for ritual use only. This kind of Yueis generally found in tombs along with other exquisite funerary objects, as a symbol of monarchical or military power.
2Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Mid-Shang (mid 15th - 13th century BC)
Dimensions: Height 31.3 cm, Diameter of mouth 18.4 cm
Weight: 1,850 g
Jiais a wine vessel used for sacrificial rituals. From the traces of soot on the outer base and the white watermark in the belly, it can be deduced that it is also a vessel used to heat wine. Bronze Jiaappeared in the late Xia and its shape matured by the mid-Shang. In the mid-Shang dynasty, they usually had a flat bottom, so a pouch-shaped like this was quite uncommon.
The surface of the vessel is decorated with animal-mask motif with dense and exaggerated lines, showing a mysterious and dignified style. It is the only piece with such decoration among the existing bronze
Jiaof the mid-Shang dynasty.
3Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Late Shang (13th - 11th century BC)
Dimension: Height 53 cm, Length of the mouth 17.2 cm, Width of the mouth 20.1 cm
Weight: 29,680 g
Leiis a large wine vessel commonly seen in the late Shang and mid-Western Zhou dynasties. Bronze art saw its peak in the late Shang dynasty. This piece of work is imposing and dignified, exquisite and magnificent, standing out among all its kind. It is in six-layer high relief design from top to bottom against a background of fine and beautiful cloud and thunder pattern. The rim, the upper belly and the ring foot are decorated with bird-like designs, with symmetric dragon designs at the shoulders, a front beast head of big spiral horns in the middle, animal-mask motifs on the middle and lower parts of the belly and sharp clawed feet at the bottom. Some protruding parts like the horns and dragon tails are decorated with intaglio lines, showing a ferocious and mystical beauty. This is a typical ware of ‘three-section all-over pattern vessel’, representing the supreme level of bronze casting technology at its peak.
4Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Early Western Zhou (11th century BC)
Dimensions: Height 29.8 cm, Diameter of mouth 22.5 cm, Length of base brim 21.2 cm
Weight: 6,480 g
Donated by Tang Zugu, Song JingwenIntroduction
Gui, as a food vessel, had gradually become a major artefact in the bronze sacrificial wares after its advent in the early Shang. By the mid-Western Zhou, the use of Guiwas gradually institutionalized. The number of vessels used was clearly regulated according to the rank of the user, usually in even numbers matched with Ding.
Bird-like patterns are often used to adorn the rims on the rectangular walls of the vessels of the late Shang and early Zhou, such as the belly part of square
Dingand the stand of Gui.
The inscription of the only word
Jiafound in the inner base is the name of the owner. This is an example of the Zhou people marking with Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches.
5Xia Shang Zhou
Date: King Xiao Reign, Western Zhou (the end of 10th century BC)
Dimensions: Height 93.1 cm, Diameter of mouth 75.6 cm
Weight: 201.5 kg
Excavated at Ren Village, Famen Temple, Fufeng County, Shaanxi Province in the middle of Guangxu reign period
Donated by Ms. Pan DayuIntroductionDa Ke
Dingwas excavated in cellar of Famen Temple, Fufeng County, Shaanxi province in Guangxu reign period. There were some smaller Dings and chimes unearthed with it. It is the master treasure of the Shanghai Museum collection, also a widely cited and world-famous national treasure. With its majestic and stately shape, smooth and grand decoration, this Dingperfectly integrates the pictorial and sculptural art of that time. The traditional patterns and designs from the early Zhou changed completely and Da Ke Dingwitnessed the transitional moment.
There is a long inscription of 28 lines of 290 characters inside the vessel whose content can be divided into two. The first is a eulogy from the Shanfu (an official position, similar to royal chef) Ke to his grandfather, Shi Hua Fu who assisted Zhou. The second records the rewards Ke received from the King Xiao of Zhou since he took his office. The inscriptions are in large, simple and regulated characters with powerful strokes and well-proportioned layout.
6Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Early Spring and Autumn (770 - 7th century BC)
Dimensions: Height 18 cm, Diameter of mouth 45 cm
Weight: 12,400 g
Donated by Mr. Sunny YipIntroduction
Panis a water container used to contain the used water after ritual washing at sacrificial ceremonies and banquets during the Shang and Zhou periods. The ritual of washing by pouring water fell out of use in the Warring States Period. Pangradually became a water container, also known as Xi(washer).
The interior is decorated with many aquatic animals, either in relief or three-dimension. With fish, turtle, frog, water bird all available, it is just like a scene in an aquarium. The most extraordinary feature is that all the round-carved animals can be swivelled in 360 degrees. When water pours into
Pan, the fish, tortoise, frog and bird move in the water as if alive. It is an unprecedented wonderful creation. The casting workmanship is remarkable for its time, because it overcame the technical problem of the adhesion of moving parts, with the animal stems cast in the thin layer of the base, making them vertical without collision with each other when spinning.
An inscription of 32 characters is cast inside the
Pan, meaning the master made this Panfor washing up for his wife, Zhong Jiang on the seventh of June on lunar calendar and it was large and wonderful.
7Xia Shang Zhou
Date: King Li Reign, Western Zhou (mid 9th century BC)
Dimensions: Height 52 cm (big), Height 22 cm (small)
Material: BronzeIntroductionUnearthed at the tomb of the Marquis of Jin, Beizhao Village, Quwo County, Shanxi province in 1992, this set of musical chimes with a total of 16 pieces, can be divided into two groups, with 8 pieces for each. Lining up according to size, these pieces can form two rows of chimes with harmonious scales and rhythms. With a total of 355 characters inscriptions carved, this is the first of its kind in the bronze inscription in the Western Zhou. The inscriptions record the time and merits of Marquis Su on his expedition with King Li of Zhou to the east which was unseen in the history books and an important supplement to the history materials of Western Zhou. In addition, the almanac of the Western Zhou can be deduced according to the inscriptions.
8Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Late Spring and Autumn (early 6th century - 476 BC)
Dimensions: Height 33.7 cm, Length 58.7 cm
Weight: 10,760 g
Excavated at Liyu Village, Hunyuan County, Shanxi Province, 1923IntroductionThis piece of work is modelled like a water buffalo. The belly of the buffalo is hollow and there are three holes from its neck to the end of its back. Inside the middle one, there is a removable pot-shaped container. Judging from its structure, it is a wine-warming vessel. Hot water can be poured into the hollow belly to heat the wine in the pot-shaped container on the back. Modelling wine vessel
Zunin animal shapes is a unique feature of Chinese bronzes.
The vessel looks dignified. The four legs are short but the two powerful horns and wide-open eyes retain the sense of reality, combining the artistic conception and utility harmoniously. The ring in the nose indicates that as early as in the Spring and Autumn period, domestication of cattle by piercing the nose had already begun. It is a valuable material object for the study of China's history of the domestication of livestock. It is finely decorated in shallow relief with animal faces composed of coiled dragon and snake patterns on the buffalo’s head, neck, body and legs. Reliefs of tigers and rhinoceros in vivid forms and beautiful workmanship are found around the neck of the buffalo and on the pot-shaped container.
9Xia Shang Zhou
Date: Late Spring and Autumn (early 6th century - 476 BC)
Weight: 37.9 kg
Material: BronzeIntroductionThe drum stand is a hemispheroid with ring-foot. The raised hollow cylinder in the centre is used to insert the drum column. Twelve intertwined circular engraved coiled dragons scramble on the hemispherical drum surface. The dragon head holding a ring in its mouth is carved in the round and the dragon bodies are of high relief. The eyes of the 12 dragons are round but hollow, which were likely inlaid but are missing now. As both ends of the dragon horns are empty slots, it is likely that similar decorations were also inlaid.
This work is a combination of the carving in the round, high relief, low relief and intaglio techniques and an integration of different craft process including separate casting, forging, copper brazing, pewter work, inlaying and so on. The dynamic shapes and symmetrical layout make up a three-dimensional sculpture where a group of dragons intertwine with each other with their heads rising and tails wagging. It is a model of the combination of casting and sculptural art.
Date: Western Han (206 BC - AD 8)
Dimensions: Height 51 cm, Diameter of base 45 cm
Weight: 15,200 g
Material: BronzeIntroductionCowrie container is a special bronze ware of the Dian people of Yunnan area. It got its name because it contained money cowrie when unearthed, with eight yaks of different gestures on the cover. The vessel is shaped like a wasp-waisted cylinder with a big yak and seven small yaks cast on the cover. The big yak in the centre stands on the drum-shaped stool, with its long and curved horns raising forward, looking powerful and vigorous. Seven small yaks stand along the edge of the cover with their heads and tails drooping. Two tiger-shaped ears are cast on the waist of the vessel with imposing gesture and covetous eyes.
Unearthed at Lijiashan, Jiangchuan, Yunnan province, this relic is an iconic artefact reflecting the characteristics of Yunnan bronze culture. Yunnan bronze wares are often seen decorated with yak and tiger motifs.
Date: Eastern Han (AD 25-220)
Dimensions: Height 76 cm
Material: PotteryIntroductionThis pottery figurine from Sichuan is red in color due to the local soil. The head and body were molded separately and joined at the neck. Eastern Han pottery figurines always wear a smile, whether figurines playing the zither or the flute, or laboring or cooking. The figurine is simple in shape, retaining the primitive and original features with a rough and heavy feeling. The vivid and lively appearance of the figurine fully reflects the relaxed and pleasant mood and expression of the player who was immersed in the melody.
2Wei Jin Southern and Northern Dynasties
Date: Northern Wei (AD 386-534)
Dimensions: Height 233 cm, Width 50 cm, Thickness 20 cm
Material: StoneIntroductionThis Buddhist stele is so named because it is engraved with its pilgrims’ names: Wang Longsheng and others. It is carved in bas-relief. The upper part of the stele carving shows the debate between Manjusri Bodhisattva and Vimalakirti. The middle part of the niche is enshrined with a Buddha and two Bodhisattvas. Beneath it is a Buddha worshipping scene carved respectively with groups of figures either standing, walking, or riding on horse or carriage. The figures in the scene were presented strictly according to the ranking of honorable masters to humble servants, with the former in taller and larger images and the latter in gaunt and timid images.
The carving of this stele is lively and vivid, embodied with complex contents, presented mainly through the skillful craft of bas-relief, with the carving on the back and the sides delicate and refined as well.
3Wei Jin Southern and Northern Dynasties
Date: Northern Qi (AD 550-577)
Dimensions: Overall height 164 cm
Material: StoneIntroductionThe statue is carved from a white marble. His face looks plump with his eyes half closed, looking downward, and the corners of his lips rise slightly in a faint smile. Both of his hands are incomplete, but the preaching gesture is still distinguishable. The gorgeous backlight of the Buddha foils the five Buddhas sitting on lotuses among flaming fire, with a lotus pattern in the centre, surrounded by a circle of lotus motifs. Shakyamuni Buddha looks graceful and elegant, with a clear, wise and kind expression, bearing a bright, intelligent and kind look, coupled with the fine and magnificent backlight, which creates a solemn harmonious feeling.
4Sui and Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties
Date: Sui (AD 581-618)
Dimensions: Overall height 37.6 cm, Length of base 23.8 cm, Width of base 32.8 cm
Weight 6.74 kg
Material: BronzeIntroductionThe common bronze Buddha statue usually appears as a single piece, while this piece of work is presented in the form of an altar table, showing a sense of dimensional space, as if it is unfolding the Buddhist world in front of us. On this rectangular altar table stands an Amitabha with two bodhisattvas, two Buddhist pilgrims and two Dharma lions. There are two empty sockets on each side of Amitabha, originally designed to place statues of two disciples, which are lost.
This triple statue of Amitabha shows exquisite workmanship. The haloes were lost-wax cast in openwork craft, the elaboration of which is stunning. Every grain of the pearls on the necklaces of Bodhisattva is clear and distinct. The lines (such as the hair) on the lions in the front were delicately incised after the whole piece was cast.
5Sui and Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties
Date: Tang (AD 618-907)
Dimensions: Overall height 72 cm
Material: StoneIntroductionPlumpness is regarded as beautiful in Buddha statues in the Tang dynasty; both the Bodhisattva and also the Buddha statues look chubby, which indicate the generosity of the state and the strong national strength.
This kneeling Bodhisattva, made from white marble with meticulous craft, looks quiet and sweet with a full face and downward looking eyes. The long dress hung from the slim waist looks dynamic with vivid carving of the drapes. And the incomplete arms often associate with the grace of a Venus. This is a masterpiece of the Bodhisattva statues of the Tang dynasty.
6Sui and Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties
Date: Tang (AD 618-907)
Dimensions: Overall height 77 cm
Material: WoodIntroductionWooden statues of the Tang dynasty are extremely difficult to preserve. There is a hollow frame carved behind the niche of the wooden head of Kashyapa to support the halo on one hand, and unexpectedly prevents the wood from cracking on the other hand, allowing this work to be preserved till today. With the head about one meter high, one can imagine its giant body. The statue was placed in a temple, which must also have been very magnificent. It was decorated with heavy and bright gilding and color paint; however, the paint peeled off over the long years and the wood grain was exposed, showing the beauty and simplicity of wood carving art.