The Ancient Mode of Production:
the Kingdom of Chu

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[ Map of the Kingdom of Chu ]

1. A map of Jing-Chu on the Yangzi River. The region in the second millenium BC. had been periodically subject to the Shang, but in the Chu period it rose from modest beginnings to become a powerful independent kingdom in Central China.

Era of Shang hegemony (2nd millenium BC.)

[ Bronze bells ]

2. Jia bronze from Panlongcheng, Huangpi Xian, Hubei, near the north bank of the Yangzi River. It is from the Erligang (early Shang) period. Although a local product, the style and technology reflect the influence of the Shang bronze tradition, introduced by Shang aristocratic immigrants. 30.1 cm. h.

[ Fang Zun from Huangcai ]

3. Fang zun bronze from Huangcai, Ningxiang Xian, Hunan. 58.3 cm. h. By the late Shang era, the Chu region was beginning to develop its own bronze style, with pieces that are larger and more elegantly caste than the Shang bronzes of the Central Plain to the North.

[ Jue from Xiangxiang Xian ]

4. Late Shang era jue bronze from Xiangxiang Xian, Hunan. 33 cm. h. This also illustrates the monumental size and refined casting of Chu bronzes. Many bronzes classified as Shang are now recognized to be Chu bronzes.

[ You from Shimen, Hunan, Chu ]

5. You discovered in 1956 in Shimen, Hunan. 47.5 cm. h. Chu bronzes had distinctive decoration: Taotsi masks with broad crest linked with the nose; bird flanges on sides, and fish motifs on the feet. This bronze has all these features and is entirely different from the Shang bronzes to the north.

[ Yue axe, Hunan, Kingdom of Chu ]

6. Yue (war axe) found in Hunan in 1971. 34.3 cm. l. Chu bronzes are also distinguished by certain forms: the single large nao drum, animal shaped vessels and distinctive weapons. This weapon has a tiger on the upper end of the socket and is unlike Shang weapons from the North.

[ Bronze drum from Chongyang, Hubei, 
	Kingdom of Chu ]

7. Bronze drum from Chongyang, Hubei. 75.5 cm. h. Based on its features, a Chu product. Just as the Chu bronze tradition emerged from that of the Shang, so too, other regions in the South and West in turn acquired a bronze tradition from the Chu.

Chu Kingdom (c. 1100―223 BC.)

[ Chu Wang Yinshen zhan bronze, Kingdom 
	of Chu, under Xiongui ]

8. When Chu became an independent state under Xiongyi, it entered cultural decline. Apparently the ethnogenesis that had driven the earlier Jing-Chu cultural vitality ended with the Shang. But by the sixth century, local traditions reasserted themselves in terms of cultural forms quite different from that of the Shang. Here a Chu Wang Yinshen zhan bronze with a dense finely coiled serpent decoration. 20 cm. h.

[ Jin from Xiasi, Sichuan Xian, Henan, 
	Kingdom of Chu ]

9. Jin from Xiasi, Sichuan Xian, Henan. 107 cm. l. These Xiasi bronzes of the mid-Spring and Autumn Period (6th c. BC.) tend to employ the new lost wax method of casting, which then spread north to the Zhou regions.

[ Yongzhong ritual bells, in Zhou 
	tradition, Kingdom of Chu ]

10. Set of six bronze ritual yongzhong bells, 6th c. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian, Washington D.C. s87.0004.0009. Chime bells and lithophones characterize the ritual orchestra associated with the Chu court, which reflects Zhou tradition.

[ Lithophone from tomb of Zeng Hou 
	Yi, Kingdom of Chu ]

11. A lithophone of 32 chime stones from the tomb of Zeng Hou Yi. By the Warring states Period, there is Chu evidence of a shift in emphasis to music for entertainment—a major break in Chinese musical history.

[ Bird from tom of Zeng Hou Yi, 
	Leigudun, Suizhou, Hubei, Kingdom of Chu ]

12. Antlered bird from tomb of Zeng Hou Yi, Leigudun, Suizhou, Hubei. 143.5 cm. h. Such a bronze adaptation of wood carving, of symbolic significance, extended beyond the Chu culture sphere. Like ritual drums that were more symbolic than functional, it reflects a cultural influence from the south.

State of Shu (Sichuan)

[ Shang bronze from Sanxingdui, Guanghan 
	Xian, Sichuan, Shu ]

13. Shang era bronze zun from Sanxingdui, Guanghan Xian (just north of Chengdu), Sichuan. 53 cm. h. From a Shu State sacrificial pit. This piece, with its seated birds on its shoulders and high swollen footring, reflect Chu bronze traditions rather than the Shang.

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