Image: The Bell and Cauldron Inscriptions-A Feast of Chinese Characters: the Origin and Development
國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum (New window)
Image: The Bell and Cauldron Inscriptions-A Feast of Chinese Characters: the Origin and Development
Image: The Bell and Cauldron Inscriptions-A Feast of Chinese Characters: the Origin and Development
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Selection: Mao Gong Ding
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Title: Mao Gong Ding

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The text cast inside the bowl of the Cauldron, consisting of 500 characters and arranged in 32 lines, is the longest bronze inscription in the world.

The Cauldron, its unearthing commonly attributed to the 23rd year of Daoguang reign, Qing dynasty (1843), in Qishan County, Shanxi Province, has been through a number of collectors before it was donated to the Central Museum.
It was then escorted with many other treasures of the National Palace Museum to quite a few locations around the country, finally arriving in Taiwan.

King Li misruled the state in his later years and lost fealty from his vassal states. He was banished to a place called Zhi, thereby Zhou entering a phase of fourteen years governed by joint regency. All over the lands under Heaven, old and new factions of feudal barons were still busy fighting one another when King Xuan succeeded the throne on death of his father. The passage in the inscription "...chaos and upheavals everywhere" probably refers to the very situation which gravely worried the new king.

That the first five paragraphs of the kingly pronouncement all commence with "So declares the King" or "The King declares" vividly conveys how anxious King Xuan was in seeking a capable hand to help him rebuild the state. Likewise, in the 2nd through 4th paragraphs, a series of forceful imperative statements uttered with "you shall NOT", "you may NOT", and "you are NOT to" further reveal the perilous turmoil the state was in, and the King's urgent need at this critical moment for the dedicated service of Duke of Mao.

So the Duke of Mao was appointed by King Xuan to take charge of all governing matters in the nation, including proclamations of statutes and codes, education of nobility youths, training guards, and administering domestic affairs. Decidedly the Duke was installed in a position above all people in the nation but one. In accordance with this great responsibility he was also greatly bestowed upon with: ritual jade, personal ornaments, court wear, adornment for his carriage, trappings for his horses, and so on. The fact that this list of awards and rewards tops all others that were mentioned in any bronze texts clearly indicates the magnitude of the appointment.

The greatness of Duke Mao's Cauldron inscription does not lie in its mere length or its sublime text only. The impressive endowment also surpasses all. A truly paramount treasure in all lands under Heaven, indeed it is.

  Mao Gong Ding  
Mao Kong Ding

late West Zhou (reign of King Xuan)

h. 53.8 cm, w. 47.9 cm

500 characters (10 duplicate, 13 combined, and 2 cast incomplete)

Enlargement 1234