Ritual Bronzes of Ancient China

Ritual Bronzes of Ancient China

Ritual Bronzes of Ancient China

Ritual Bronzes of Ancient China

Excerpt

This summary statement is the cross-section of a by-product of a by-product. The primary undertaking, a History of West Asiatic Textiles, has required fifteen years work on early Asiatic iconography, including its palaeolithic antecedents, and twenty, concurrently, assembling the main material on the textiles themselves. In the course of the latter investigations considerable data accumulated on the economic organization of this, and other crafts in Asia. Two papers summarizing parts of this, given in the last academic year, before the Iranian Institute Economic Seminar under the late Dr. John F. Normano, aroused sufficient interest to warrant more comprehensive and systematic presentation. This is now taking final form, with the aid of a grant from the American Philosophical Society, as: The Craftsman in Asia.

The completion of the section on early craft organization in China illuminated, in conjunction with some of the inconographic work already done, various neglected or misunderstood aspects of Shang and Chou ritual bronzes, in which the writer had long had an interest. A brief account of some of these findings, which constituted the last of the Iranian Institute's series of lectures on the Culture of China in January and February of this year, evoked requests that the contents be made available in print. But to prepare the statement properly for publication it was necessary to outline the Sources of Chinese Culture, including a survey of developments in the Anatolian-Azerbaijan area which, as increasing information ever more convincingly shows, was the creative center whence derived ultimately the major elements of successive initial phases of the Chinese civilization.

Immediate publication of this systematic study in early cultural history was not practical under war conditions, so its appearance has been deferred until next year. Meanwhile, a condensation of some of the central conclusions is here offered, necessarily without sufficient specifications or evidence.

The moral of this devious research history is that, in order to know anything, in cultural history at least, one must know everything relevant and a great deal more which may prove not to be so. Since this is manifestly beyond human possibilities, the work of isolated scholars must more and more give way to cooperative efforts under catholic editorship. This is a major principle in the work of the Iranian Institute, already preliminarily demonstrated in its Survey of Persian Art, and again applied in modest scope . . .

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