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Bronze Jin with Cloud Designs: Proof of Ancient Alcohol Ban

Mar 31, 2010

Name: Bronze Jin with Cloud Designs |中文名: 云纹铜禁
Dated to:620 ~ 552B.C. | Culture: Spring and Autumn Period, Chu State
Unearthed: 1978@Xiashi, Xichuan, Nanyang, Henan |Current Location: Henan Museum
Dimension: l x w x h: 103 x 46 x 28.8cm

Jin is basically a wine table. Its body was built by various-thickness bronze stems supporting five layers of hollow cloud designs. Twelve dragon shaped beasts crawls around the table and another twelve sit at the bottom as feet.

Jin, luxury wine table

Jin, literally means “forbidden”. It was used from early West Zhou Dynasty to Warring States Period.

Why was it named “forbidden”? Because the Zhou People concluded from history that both Xia and Shang Dynasties were failed because of alcohol abuse. So in Zhou Dynasty, the King announced the first Alcohol Ban in Chinese history: Wine Rules. It provided:

Kings and Princes could only drink wine when doing worships and ceremonies; people who drink wine together will be arrested and executed in Capitol; People who don’t obey this rule will also be sentenced to death.

Under such tight regulation, although the nobles still could drink wine, or even sometimes break the law, the table holding the wine became the proof of the first era of alcohol ban in Chinese history. Thus, it was named as “forbidden”.

The earliest Lost-wax casting evidence in China

This bronze Jin was cast as a whole using lost-wax casting. The earliest literary evidence in China was recorded in early Tang Dynasty, which is pretty late comparing to other civilizations. So historians used to believe lost-wax casting in China was originated from India.

The discovery of this bronze Jin in 1978 moved Chinese lost-wax casting history 1,100 years earlier. It was cast no later than 552B.C. It belonged to Prime Minister Zi-Geng during the reign of King Kang of Chu State.

Reborn from the ashes

Very few Jins survived till today. That’s why this one is so precious. But could you imagine that such a dedicate furniture was once totally ruined as a pile of bronze fragments?

Broken Bronze Jin

Could you rebuild this?

Yes, the picture shown right is how it looked when it was unearthed. After two thousand years of flooding and erosion, this bronze Jin had already broken apart into several hundreds of fragments. And that’s also probably why it survived grave robbery for so long.

Only after rebuilding by bronze ware expert Wang Chang-qing was this rare treasure able to be presented to the world. It took him more than two years to rebuild this. He stayed with the pile of bronze fragments day and light, studied the relationship of individual fragments, carefully reconnect them on after another. It’s hard to imagine how much patience and perseverance you need to get this job done.

CCTV TV program about this bronze ware treasure: part I, part II. (In Chinese)

[Forbidden Treasure of China Series]
This is the 16th of 64 culture heritages that the government of China forbids to exhibit abroad. The complete list is here. In Chinese.

[Chinese Keywords]
国家一级文物 禁止出境

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