Brief Identification Edit

Artifact 1
Fangyi is a type of vessel that is made of bronze and was used to hold wine for ritual ceremonies by the Shang dynasty. According to the site "Ritual Vessel"[1] the vessel was used from around 1600-1050 BCE and had a rectangular shape due to the term "Fang" meaning square. The Fangyi was also used for ritual offerings. Kings would make sacrifices to ancestors to ensure good fortune and drive away evil. Fangyi have been found in in burials so we can assume that they were used for more than just ritual functions. The vessel in the picture on the right is currently at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Technical Evaluation Edit

According to the site "Ritual Vessel"[2] the Shang dynasty made the vessel with ceramic piece molds built around clay models. The molds were imprinted with designs from the model and then the model was cut down to allow the bronze to pour down into the open space. Each piece on the vessel is unique due to designs and each piece being cut to allow the bronze to be poured on it. According to the site "Shang and Zhou dynasties: The Bronze Age of China "[3] the designs on each piece either have an animal or character design. If it has a character design also known as a "monster mask" there appears to be a face divided across the middle across the bronze. According to the site "The Ritual Bronze Vessels"[4] this period of time is known as the Bronze Age in China because bronze was the base in making good weapons, making good vessels, and part of making good chariots. The Shang dynasty was at war with its neighbors so there was a high supply of bronze. Bronze also mean wealth and luxury so that is why members of this society made every piece unique. Most of these ritual vessels were found from flowing down a river or underground buried with someone. According to the site "Ceremonial wine vessel (fang yi)"[5] in 1940 this artifact was sold to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by Tonying and Company in New York for $10,000.

Local Historical Context Edit

According to the site "The Shang Dynasty"[6] the Shang dynasty was founded around 1600 BCE by a man named Cheng Tang. The dynasty was a monarchy governed by a series of kings. The king was served by people he gave power to and those people tended to be ancestors. The invention of writing was also underway towards the end of this period. Many bronze vessels along with this one had very little writing on them. The lower class people in the society who were not at war made these vessels for the rest of the society and their King to have for not only ritual purposes but to also have to bury with people. Some craftsmen worked at bronze workshops but most people in society worked from their homes. The vessels themselves were not gifts to the king necessarily but they were used by the king to give gifts to his ancestors. According to the site "History of Humanity"[7] whenever the Fangyi was made for the King, the makers of the vessel received a form of real profit in return. Due to bronze representing wealth, any person who received a vessel was significant to society.

World- Historical Significance Edit

The vessel was made when the first form of writing came along which is another reason they are extremely unique. According to the site "The Ritual Bronze Vessels"[8] engraved on some of the pieces of the vessel are some words which described whatever significant event had happened. Whether it be an achievement or just a favor, it helps us today understand what was happening within the society at a certain point in time. The significance of this artifact goes far beyond the minimum. This form of writing led to the form of writing we have today. This was the first time people were able to communicate within a society with symbols. According to the site "History of Humanity"[9] this was also the first time that we see economic and political dependence within a society. The Shang dynasty was eventually taken over by the Zhou dynasty but the Fangyi lived on. Some of the other vessels made during this time were circular and were similar to the northwestern circular jades. The vessel held sacrifices made by the king then which he gave to ancestors for good fortune. This is similar to the Aztecs who also made sacrifices for good fortunes. The Fangyi did not travel far and most vessels that have been discovered from this time period have been dug up. It was not trades among long range trade networks.

Suggested Bibliography Edit

Orientations, Ritual Wine Vessel and Cover, Fangyi [art reproduction] , March 2004. Vol. 35 Issue 2, p-33

Orientations, Archaic bronze vessel, Fangyi [art reproduction] , March 2001. Vol. 32 Issue 3, p-23

Orientations, Fine Art, Fangyi [art reproduction], September 2012. Vol. 43, p-68-70

Yulin Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage Preservation; Li, Tao. Chinese Cultural Relics, Bronzes of the Shang Dynasty unearther in Zizhou County, Minneapolis, MN, (2, nos.3-4 2015)p.67-80

Pollard, A.M. and Bray, P. and Hommel, P. and Hsu, Y.-K. and Liu, R. and Rawson, J.; Antiquity, Jun2017, Bronze Age Metal Circulation, Vol. 91 Issue 357, p. 674, Database: History Reference Center

Musuem of Fine Arts, Boston, "Ceremonial wine vessel with inscription"

"Ritual Vessel (fangyi)"

"Shang Dynasty (Ritual Bronze Vessels)"

"Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China"

"The Shang Dynasty"

"Shang Dynasty"

"The Ritual Bronze Vessel"

"Bronze, Jade, and Shang Dynasty Technology and Art"

"History of Humanity"