This week Cee’s challenge is about the first of the Chinese five Elements: Metal
I have always been interested to find out what metal was used in human history and how they were used. Of particular interest is the metal used the Qin dynasty (which is 2200 years ago) when China was unified for the first time. I got some of the answers when I went to a Terracotta Relics exhibition which displayed many of the terracotta army, soldiers, generals, horses, chariots etc. as well as some metallic relics.
One of these was the Gold Tiger-shaped Tally (hufu 虎符) which is a Grade 1 Cultural Relic of China. It was unearthed in 1972 in Shanxi Province where the Terracotta Army was also found.
This tiger shaped tally has an exaggerated design with huge eyes and ears, the tiger crouches on its four limbs, swishing its tail and ready to devour its prey with its protruding teeth. Used as a means of identification in ancient times. Tiger-shaped tallies became prevalent in the “Spring and Autumn Warring States ” periods as tools for sending military departures. The goldsmithing of the early Qin (221- 206BC) era was distinguished from that of other states, which can possibly be attributed to the exchanges between the Qin people and their nomadic neighbors.
The other one, a bronze ge or “dagger-axe” (戈), is the most characteristic weapon of ancient China. The ge is the one on the left of the picture below; note the sharpness of the blades and the ancient Chinese characters inscribed on it.
Starting 1974, the Terracotta Warriors Pits have unearthed large amounts of bronze weapons which include swords, spears, scimitars, billhooks, dagger-axes, arrowheads and crossbows. Despite being buried for over two thousand years, these military weapons still in a usable state and their edges are as sharp as new. This reflects the high level of metallurgical technology of the Qin Dynasty. From this we know that the warriors were fully equipped with the then state-of-the art bronze weapons. The assemblage excavated so far includes over 40,000 arrowheads, as well as hundreds of crossbow triggers, swords, lances, spears, dagger-axe, hooks, honour weapons (Su) and the ferrules that were fixed at the end of the wooden shafts of the longer weapons.
These give us some insight as to the already high level of metallurgical skills even 2000 years ago!