Style and Decoration

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  • Vessel in shape of ancient water pourer
    Vessel in shape of ancient water pourer
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Glassmakers in China were inspired by ancient bronze vessels and copied their shapes and decoration.

Craftsmen in China began making objects in bronze in the Shang dynasty in about 1500 B.C. From the time of the Song dynasty (960-1279) ancient bronzes inspired the designs of objects in other materials such as ceramics. Collectors and educated people admired the bronze designs and also the evidence they gave of great dynasties in the past.

Ancient bronzes were particularly popular at the Chinese court during the reign of the Qianlong emperor (1736-1795). Craftsmen at the Imperial glass workshops copied the shapes and patterns of bronze vessels in glass for use in the palace.

In 1776, for example, there were nineteen glass vases in the shape of ancient bronze beakers (gu) in the emperor’s retirement compound, the Garden of Eternal Spring (Changchun Yuan).

Click on the images to find out more about them.