Thursday, September 3, 2009
Chinese Bronze Inscriptions金文
Inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells and inscriptions on bronze are the early representatives in the art of Chinese calligraphy.
After the Oracle Inscriptions, Chinese writing evolved into the form found on bronze ware made during the Shang Dynasty, Western Zhou Dynasty (c 1066–770 BC) and the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BCE), a kind of writing called jinwen ‘metal script’. Bronze wares are utensils made of copper alloys, usually with tin as main additive, on which one can not only see veins and decorative design, but also many inscriptions.
The trend of engraving and casting inscriptions on bronze ware started in mid and late Shang dynasty, flourishing in the Western Zhou, and gradually declined after the Warring States period. It last totally about one thousand years.
Most of the inscriptions on the bronze ware are cast and only a few is carved by sharp tools. Early bronze inscriptions were almost always cast (that is, the writing was done with a stylus in the wet clay of the piece-mould from which the bronze was then cast), while later inscriptions were often engraved after the bronze was cast.
The concave typeface of the characters is called as characters cut in intaglio; the raised characters are called as characters cut in relief. A lot of characters on the bronze ware are the cut in intaglio. The ancient people thought that bronze was quite firm so the inscriptions could be imperishably passed down, so the affairs that should be passed down must be cast on the bronze ware.
Most bronze inscriptions recorded the name of clan ancestors or the war, politics, largess and other important historical facts at that time. Therefore, inscriptions have become the important material for the research of the ancient history.
Along with the flourishing of stele study, calligraphers once again paid attention to bronze inscription in the Shang dynasty for practising seal script and doing research on new ways of structure forming.