Along the Yangzi River: Regional Culture of the Bronze Age from Hunan

All Grades, Arts & Literature, History, Resource Collection
  • bronze alter set

  • A bronze mirror (left) and a bronze wine vessel (right)

China’s Bronze Age Cultures — an Introduction

With every archaeological discovery of bronze age artifacts throughout China’s vast territory, we gain a more complete and complex picture of this formative period of Chinese civilization. At the heart of these important discoveries are the bronze ware artifacts that lend this age its name. Individual bronze ware artifacts are a marvel in metallurgical design and technology; the decorative motifs that adorn the pieces fire the imagination about early Chinese cultural and aesthetic beliefs and the inscriptions found on many bronze vessels give important historical information as well as document the evolution of the Chinese writing system. Groups of bronze ware vessels give evidence to the rich ritualistic uses these bronze works were intended for, and the tombs and burial sites they are recovered from attest to a highly advanced stratified society that is required for large scale production of so many bronzes. Finally, the distribution of these archaeological sites throughout China and the variations in bronze ware styles found at these sites paint a picture of diverse cultural and geographical centers interacting within one another through commerce as well as warfare.

In conjunction with the spring 2011 China Institute exhibition, Along the Yangzi River: Regional Cultures of the Bronze Age, China Institute’s professional development program for K-12 educators, Teach China, has developed online resources to give audiences a brief introduction for studying bronze ware cultures and to help explore some essential questions:

  • How were bronze ware artifacts made, by whom, and for what purpose?
  • What do the shapes, decorative patterns, and inscriptions on various bronze ware vessels and artifacts reveal about the cultural and social contexts in which they were made and circulated in?
  • How can we identify regional variations in bronze ware artifacts, and what do they tell us about the cultural diversity of ancient China during the bronze age?
Resource Type: Resource Collections
Caterogy: All Grades, Arts & Literature, History, Resource Collection


Teach China Team

Teach China is a comprehensive professional development program offered by China Institute to provide a wealth of opportunities for K-12 educators to enhance their knowledge of China, past and present. We take an interdisciplinary approach consistent with national and state-mandated standards in order to help educators incorporate the teaching of China into all subjects and grade levels, including Mandarin language learning, the humanities, social studies, and the arts. Teach China promotes cross-cultural understanding through the use and creation of authentic materials, the presentation of balanced perspectives, and the fostering of enduring connections between educators around the world.