Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Metal

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.CIMG2322

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 “daggeraxe” (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.CIMG2324

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!

30 thoughts on “Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Metal

  1. I visited the Terracotta Warriors in 1989 and was overwhelmed by the sight of all those life sized statues, you have given us some very interesting facts, thank you

    • Hi pommepal, you must be among some of the first foreign visitors who have visited Xian quite early to see the Terracotta Warriors. Trust you find them interesting. Thank you!

    • Back then they just had a very large corrugated iron Nissan hut barn over them. Walked round a dusty elevated walk-way to view them. Some how the primitive conditions made them more incredible. They did not allow photos unfortunately, I bought post cards

    • Hi Bryon, thanks so much for the nomination which I understand is an important award. I have decided not to pursue or accept any nomination / award during my retirement and for this reason, I have already turned down all similar awards. Knowing that my blog is read in many places of the world (160 countries) is already my biggest reward. With regret, I have to decline the nomination. Thank you once again for the nomination which is very much appreciated! Regards, Michael

  2. I’m always amazed at the skill that is unearthed from so many years ago. The fact that they engraved their weapons must have been very fine work. Who know’s what’s still buried out there. I was just watching a program about a new hi way being built near Rome. It takes years because they have to stop for archeology digs all the time, so that the past can be rescued before they pave over it forever..very interesting.

  3. You Chinese, have been so far ahead all of us others. We didn’t even excite up here in the North.
    Amazing! Very interesting reading … and interesting objects. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Viveka, the Chinese in the past have invented things like gun powder for fireworks only, they were taught to be scholarly and treat each other nicely by Conficius and others. The technology are well kept in high places. This explained why China was weak in the last few centuries. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Amazing what they could do before … it still astounds me, even though I have been to many museums of China repeatedly, how much they already knew back then and how little we know of what life was really like. We piece together fragments with all sorts of guesswork and maybe only come close to a patched up rag instead of the beautiful tapestry they wove in the past. What we consider “modern” design, can be seen in works of art by different ethnic groups hundreds of years ago. Thanks for this post!

  5. This was so educational and fascinating. I’m happy to learn this! And I agree they are very advanced.

    I think we frequently underestimate the beauty and genius of the past the way we underestimate and disregard our parents wisdom during our adolescence.


  6. I share you interest in old metal objects, for their intrinsic worth and for what they can suggest to us about the past. The first image bears (to my eye) an intriguing resemblance to the jaguar of the Chavin culture in what is today Peru. Sometimes these old pieces do seem to cross-reference, and one wonders about them.

    • Yes, sometimes I wonder that too. There are many cultures in the past with “men” having big eyes and mouth. Some people say they are extra-terrestials with ET eyes. Thank you for the kind comment!

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