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Metalworking in Bronze Age China: The Lost-Wax Process By Peng Peng ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Metalworking in Bronze Age China:


An overwhelming majority of Western scholars used to believe that most early Chinese bronzes were cast using the lost-wax process.1 The section-mold2 theory proposed by Orvar Karlbeck3 received little attention because it seemed unbelievable that some of the particularly intricate shapes (e.g., fig. 116) could have been cast integrally within piece molds.4 Later, Rutherford J. Gettens’s study verified that certain visually complex Chinese bronzes could have been cast within the section molds, but not necessarily in one piece, because individual castings could have been mechanically or metallurgically joined together.5 Studies on the relationship between casting technique and vessel design6 won wide acceptance for the section-mold theory in the manufacture of most bronzes from early China. Careful research carried out on thousands of examples also led two Chinese scholars, Guo Baojun and Hua Jueming, to agree that most early Chinese bronzes, if not all, had invariably been cast by the section-mold process.7

Recently the question of whether the lost-wax technique was used at all during Bronze Age China has been hotly debated.8 The bronze zun-pan set buried with Marquis Yi of Zeng (d. 433 BCE, figs. 15, 16) from Suizhou of Hubei9 and certain other bronzes are the focus of this debate. In response, the following questions motivate this book: 1) Was the lost-wax process ever practiced in Bronze Age China? 2) If the lost-wax process existed in Bronze Age China, how many known artifacts can be confidently identified as lost-wax castings? How was the lost-wax process adapted to each individual artifact? What are the burial contexts, chronology, and geographical distribution of these lost-wax castings? 3)