Chinese bronze vessels are some of the most important pieces of Chinese art, warranting an entire separate catalogue in the imperial art collections.
Bronze is the alloy of copper, stannum and plumbum. After the invention of this alloy 5,000 years ago, bronze prevailed immediately and led our ancestors' life into a new stage - the bronze era.
Decorative patterns of bronze vessels were the most delicate and diverse. Popular patterns were the lines of beasts' faces which seemed mysterious and the lines depicting dragons and phoenix which were believed to be mighty and auspicious. Gradually people developed more complicated means of adorning their vessels. They inset jade, turquoise, iron or copper into the bronze vessels.
Most bronze vessels were used for cooking food or to heat a millet wine. However, certain huge vessels usually symbolized power and status. For example, Ding, a tripod caldron, some having four legs, was originally cooking vessel and ritual vessel inscribed with memorial address, and gradually transferred into a symbol of state and power.