History is indeed an awesome part of travel, as part of my travels I had the chance to visit Xi’an out in China. Xi’an is in the Shaanxi province and is a wonderful city filled with history and a mix of culture you may find hard to come by elsewhere. I will be posting some dedicated entries for this trip but decided to start up a bite size log of all the historic artefacts I came across. I had the chance to get hold of an interactive guide with 3D models to remind me of some of the things I saw out there, particularly around the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. I will be posting more about that in the near future as I feel the history of China’s first emperor is worthy of some more detailed research and posts of depth.
Today I’m focusing on the first bite size artefact I got to see – Bronze Bells of the Qin Dynasty (秦乐府钟)。
As the name suggests, this is a bronze bell engraved with gold. Within the excavation site of the Mausoleum, various artefacts and wonders were unearthed. Including the famous Terracotta army. This bell was discovered in the western vault of the mausoleum and is surrounded by similar artefacts. While I was there were still works and restoration being carried out.
The dimensions of the bell sit around 13.3cm in height and 7.2/5.8cm in outer and inner diameter respectively. Small in scale yet majestic in appearance. Surprisingly, the gold decorative trimmings were still visible after hundreds of years. With attention to the base of the bell we can see an almost rhombus like shape. There are silver sections that divide the gold and bronze blocks.
These intricate bells are a rare specimen in archaeology and were produced using very fine craftsmanship. Bronze is not the easiest material to work with and it can be said that a balance between temperature, moulding and clever use of decorative materials were used to achieve what we see today. This is a testament to the skill of the craftsman within the Qin dynasty and it still holds up to this very day. It really does show the mastery of gold and silver processes and boasts prestige in design. A shame that I could not say this about many of the luxury goods on offer in current markets.
The bell is of course small in size, so what could have this been used for? These bells were to be used for musical purposes and there is evidence of their use in this fashion with markings on the bell. Famous composer, Lü Ji (吕骥) was the first to sound such a bell and classified the tone of the instrument to be c on the musical scale. I am no musician but have come to understand the bell resonates a high pitched and crisp sound.
So with this tiny piece of instrument we are able to discern some of the most intricate details about ancient China, including its craftsmanship and musical culture. I find this truly fascinating in itself. While we may not be able to listen to a composition from that era, it is still a glimpse into the grand and elegant past it belongs to.
So that wraps up my first bite size log.
If anything stands out as incorrect, this is down to my interpretation so feel free to correct me.. Happy to amend :)
Thanks for reading Momosan