Novelties in Antiquarian Revivals: the Case of the Chinese Bronzes
The paper takes the revival of ancient bronzes in later periods as its principal topic. Three forms of revival are proposed: recreation, involving the reproduction of the original forms and decoration and the reinstatement of the original functions of the vessels to offer food and wine to the ancestors; antiquarianism, which concerns the collection and cataloguing of vessels; and archaism, whereby ancient forms and decoration were used on vessels whose purposes were quite different from those of the originals. In particular, archaistic vessels were first developed as incense burners and flower vases and later as decorative items.
The paper first presents a case study, describing the copies or recreations found in eighth to seventh century B.C. tombs of the Chin and Kuo states. Here these small vessels appear to set out in a physical, tangible way the generations or pedigree of the families. Indeed, as this instance and that of the revivals of Sung Hui-tsung demonstrate, all recreations have such purposes. Beyond the claims of pedigree come claims of legitimacy. The article concludes that the recreations and their objectives of establishing a pedigree provide the foundation for other later enterprises to collect and copy the bronzes in other less august contexts.