Zhong Ding Wen 鐘鼎文

鐘鼎文 Zhong Ding Wen “Bell and Cauldron Script”


The foundation of Chinese culture was laid four thousand years ago in the remote ages of Three Dynasties (c. 2070 ~ 221 B.C.): Xia, Shang, and Zhou, during which Rites and Music acquired the status of the keystone of society.



The Culture of Rites and Music embodied itself in bronzes, which were considered "Treasure of the State". ding (cauldron) was foremost among all

 ritual vessels; zhong (bell) the prime musical instrument. To display sacrificial offerings and to perform ceremonial music, cauldron sets and bell ensembles were indispensable parts of any grand events of worship.



 Fresh-cast bronzes shine like gold so the ancients sometimes referred to them as jing (gold). In the nomenclature of epigraphy, the words cast or engraved on bronzes are accordingly called 金文 Jing Wen (Golden Script), or 鐘鼎文Zhong Ding Wen (Bell and Cauldron Script). In Western Zhou Dynasty, Jin Wen is widely used. Unlikely the use of Oracle Bones , these vessels were commissioned to commemorate unusual accomplishments or great virtues, and to offer memorial sacrifices in the family temples, so as to honor ancestors and to pass down to posterity.



Today the accompanying inscriptions provide not only first-hand materials attesting to historical veracity, but also valuable sources for understanding the subsequent development of Chinese characters. According to statistics, about 3,005 of its text characters which can be identified.



Chinese bronze inscriptions, also commonly referred to as Bronze script or Bronzeware script and basically continue from the Shang writing system, that is, the Characters were of highly pictographic nature, often depicting clan symbols in conjunction with the name of the clan leader. In general, bronze inscriptions follow the same pattern as wooden (or bamboo) slips (木簡), i.e. the text is arranged from the top to bottom, and right to left. This is unlike the early oracle bone script, of which direction was determined more by the form and shape of the bone or a turtle shell, rather than writing traditions. Some oracle bone inscriptions even follow circular patterns.


The initial length of the phrases at that period was very short, usually one to maximum three characters. They stood for and represented a clan, or the owner of a given bronze item, but also related to their power or status (owners of such vessels were mostly kings and wealthy rulers).

 毛公鼎Mao Gong Ding “Cauldron of Duke Mao”


The Cauldron of Duke Mao has a wide flared mouth, a linked ring motif decorating the rim, upright handles and three hoofed feet. The text cast inside the bowl of the Cauldron of Duke Mao, consisting of 500 characters and arranged in 32 lines, is the longest bronze inscription in the world.


The inscription which can be divided into seven sections that describe when King Xuan of the Zhou came to the throne, the Duke of Mao was appointed by King Xuan to take charge of all governing matters in the nation, including proclamations of statutes and codes, education of nobility youths, training guards, and administering domestic affairs. In accordance with this great responsibility he was also greatly bestowed upon with: ritual jade, personal ornaments, court wear, adornment for his carriage, trappings for his horses, and so on. The fact that this list of awards and rewards were cast in the bronze texts in order to record the honor given to the Duke Mao, which indicates the magnitude of the appointment.


The greatness of Duke Mao's Cauldron inscription does not lie in its mere length or its sublime text only. The impressive endowment also surpasses all. A truly paramount treasure in all lands under Heaven, indeed it is.


font  國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum http://www.npm.gov.tw/exh99/bell/3_en.htm


 The Cauldron, its unearthing commonly attributed to the 23rd year of Daoguang reign, Qing dynasty (1843), in Qishan County, Shanxi Province, has been through a number of collectors before it was donated to the Central Museum.( Taiwan )





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