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Diversity in Eastern Zhou Bronze Casting: A Look at a Group of Openwork Vessels

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Investigations into the making of ancient Chinese bronzes have shown that while the great majority of vessels were produced by some form of piece-mould casting, ancillary techniques could be resorted to when circumstances demanded it. Thus, in the Eastern Zhou period, the lost-wax process was used on occasion in combination with section moulds to create complex openwork interlace and high relief decoration. The following study examines the manufacturing techniques used for two vessels from that period, a previously unpublished he from the Ethnographical Museum in Geneva (Switzerland), and a ding excavated at Liuquan (Shanxi). Both are decorated with a near-identical form of snake interlace, designed as an openwork interlace outer shell set over a plain inner shell. This highly unusual double-walled structure, here termed "diatrete," is at present attested on only four other vessels. Despite the structural similarities between all these objects, however, it appears that two fundamentally different techniques were used in their manufacture, one based entirely on the section-mould process, and the other involving lost-wax.

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