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A Glance at NM C Masterpieces


Many who haven’t spent much time exploring the Louvre often rush directly to Mona Lisa, perhaps the world’s most famous painting and the museum’s most distinguished exhibit. Similar behavior happens at the National Museum of China (NMC). Due to its abundant collections, it takes an entire day even to rush past all its exhibits. For those who only have a couple of hours to visit the museum,what should they see?

The following masterpieces consistently draw the greatest attention at NMC.

Hou Mu Wu Rectangular Cauldron (ding)

Called the “king of bronze ware,” Hou Mu Wu Rectangular Cauldron measures 133 centimeters tall, 122 centimeters long, and 79.2 centimeters wide, with a six-centimeter-thick wall and a total weight of 832.84 kilograms. It is the heaviest single bronze ritual vessel ever unearthed in China. Its name is derived from the three Chinese characters - Hou, Mu, and Wu - inscribed on the inside of its body. The vessel was commissioned by the son of Wu Ding, a king of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), to carry out sacrificial rituals for his mother, Fu Hao. 

Square Vessel (zun) with Four Rams

The square vessel with four rams measures 58.3 centimeters in height and 34.5 kilograms in weight, and each side of its square mouth is 52.4 centimeters long. Dubbed the best paradigm of traditional clay molding techniques, it preserves some incomparable bronze casting.

Hongshan Jade Dragon

A relic of Hongshan Culture from the late Neolithic Age, the jade dragon is dated about 5,000 years old. It is 26 centimeters in diameter and weighs one kilogram. Carved from a single piece of dark-green jade, the dragon forms a reversed C-shape and looks as if it’s ready to fly into the sky.

Celadon Vase with Lotus Designs

The celadon vase, 59.5 centimeters in height, features a long neck and a flared mouth. It is decorated with lotus petal designs from top to bottom, and integrates decorative techniques such as engraving, embossing, pile sculpting, mould printing, and pasting. With intricate patterns, stunning shimmer, and a lubricous glaze, the vase is considered a masterpiece of North China’s celadon art during the Northern Dynasties (386-581). It is estimated that the vase was completed sometime from the 4th to 6th Century. Viewed from above, the petal designs of the vase protrude outwards, appearing like a blossoming lotus.

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