Guojizibai Pan: Evidence of Successful Enfeoffment of Zhou Dynasty
Name: Guojizibai Pan | 中文名: 虢季子白盘
Dated to: ~816 B.C. | Culture: Western Zhou Dynasty
Unearthed: ~1820-1850A.D. @ Baoji, Shaanxi | Current location: National Museum of China
Dimension: length 137.2cm, width: 86.5cm height 39.5cm
One of three most precious heavy bronze wares from western Zhou Dynasty
This bathtub-like bronze ware is the largest bronze ware from western Zhou dynasty. It’s also one of the “three heavy precious” bronze wares from western Zhou dynasty. This pan has 111 inscription words. It recorded that Lord Guojizibai battled with a northwestern nomad tribe at the order of King of Zhou and defeated them. So King rewarded him for his successful protection to the central capital city. This is a very important relic for studying the politics, technology, and military history of Zhou Dynasty.
Although it’s a heavy and massive bronze ware, Guojizibai Pan has a very delicate casting design. The decorative patterns are also pretty and artistic. It represents the highly developed bronze casting technology of the people in Zhou Dynasty.
Inscription: Evidence of Successful Enfeoffment
The more inscription a bronze ware has, the more precious it is. This is how bronze wares are valued, because inscription provides rare documentary evidence about earliest Chinese history.
There are inscriptions of 111 words at its inner bottom. It recorded a battled between Guojizibai and a nomad tribe in the north, killing 500 enemy and captured 50 as slaves. King of Zhou hosted a celebration to reward Guojizibai for his success. Then Guojizibai cast this bronze ware to commemorate this glory.
In the early years of the Western Zhou dynasty, the King enfeoffed his relatives and generals as regional lords, surrounding his central capital region. As brother of King Wen, Uncle Guo was initially enfeoffed at Baoji area, and then migrated east to Sanmenxia region, Guojizibai is Guo family descendant.
Southeast of Baoji City is the west gate of capital city FengGao, In Sanmenxia region, there is Hangu Pass and Maojin Port, both of which are strategic important locations for the security of the royal family. Given Guo family’s successful war service and their place of residence, we can know that the enfeoffment system of Western Zhou Dynasty indeed played a important “security screen” role for the royal family.
The legend on its discovery
Guojizibai Pan is a treasure among bronze wares, and its discovery was also legendary. It has been unearthed since Daoguang period (~1820-1850) of Qing Dynasty. Local farmers did not know its value and use it as a water/food tray for horses. Later the county magistrate got it with very little money. During the turbulent times of later Qing Dynasty, it was found by Liu Ming-chuan, a patriotic military commander. In subsequent decades, those who covet this bronze are countless, such as merchants, governors, officials, foreign invaders, etc.
In order to protect it, Liu re-buried it underground in his remote rural hometown and asked his descendants to keep the secret. After the establishment of P.R. China, Liu Su-Ceng unearthed it and donated to the national museum. Since then, Guojizibai Pan can be rejuvenated for the people of the world to enjoy.
[Forbidden Treasure of China Series]
This is the 7th of 64 culture heritages that the government of China forbids to exhibit abroad. The complete list is here. In Chinese.