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Decorative Designs in Chinese Art 中国文物的纹饰

Fire Design 火纹
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Later Periods 后期

In later periods bronze lost its place as the centerpiece of imperial power. Bronze became more affordable to people outside sovereigns and high nobles. Also, other materials, such as iron and later steel, were developed that are lighter and stronger than bronze. However, bronze retained its place as a material of choice for certain artifacts, such as large bells and incense burners.

Bronze mirror with the twelve animals of the Terrestrial Branches
Bronze mirror with the twelve animals of the Terrestrial Branches
Five Dynasties (907—960), Suzhou Museum

The twelve animals of the Terrestrial Branches 生肖, more loosely called the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep , monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. The rear of the bronze mirror above from the Five Dynasties shows twelve animals of the Terrestrial Branches around eight divinatory trigrams 八卦, combining multiple popular favorites in one art work.

Yongle Bell
Yongle Reign (1,403—1,424), Ming Dynasty. Dazhong Temple, Beijing

Some of the bells in palaces, temples, and towers are huge. The Yongle bell, shown above, is 6.75 meters high and weighs 4.6 tonnes. The bell is decorated with Buddhist matras in both Chinese and Sanskrit. The top of the bell is decorated with a fierce looking dragon, indicating that is exclusively for imperial use. The circumference at the base is decorated with the traditional Chinese eight divinatory trigrams 八卦.

a stone statue
Copper Lion
Qianlong Reign, Qing Dynasty (1735—1796), Lama Temple, Beijing

Statues of lions, usually placed in pairs on either side of an entrance, are a common site outside buildings in China. This is connected with their symbolism in Buddhism as being a defender of the Dharma. The copper lion statue above at the Lama Temple in Beijing is especially impressive. Besides the main sculpture the patterns on the base are intereting.

Ancient Astronomical Instrument
Ancient Astronomical Instrument
Beijing Ancient Observatory

The two copper pitchers below from Xinjiang show an obvious Middle Eastern influence, including Arabic text. Uyger art has a distinctive mix of Chinese and Middle Eastern elements with the addition of something unique in itself. The pitcher immediately below has fine floral designs.

20世纪上半叶 新疆 上海博物馆
Uygur openwork copper pitcher
Early 20th century, Xinjiang. Shanghai Museum

The pitcher below, from Kashgar, has an interesting spiral pattern, shown in detail on the right.

a pitcher a spiral pattern
20世纪上半叶 新疆咯什 上海博物馆
Uygur copper pitcher in lacquer inlay
Early 20th century. Kashgar, Xinjiang. Shanghai Museum
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