Bringing ancient ‘money pots’ back to life in Yunnan museum

Share This Post

A money pot might carry a sweet childhood memory for some. But as early as 2,000 years ago, in today's Yunnan Province of southwest China, it means wealth, status, and power.

But it was not a piggy bank, and what was stored inside were not coins either. In the ancient Dian Kingdom, this bronzeware held precious seashells from the Indian Ocean, an exclusive item for aristocrats.

According to historical records and archaeological studies, most areas in Yunnan were still in a barter stage at that time, and shells were not popular as a currency but in nobles' tombs for symbolic use.

These "shell containers" presented the advanced productivity and aesthetic level in that period. Their most unique part is the exquisite cover with three-dimensional reliefs, indicating vivid scenes of social life in the ancient Dian Kingdom, including sacrifice, war, and tribute hunting and weaving.

People in the Kingdom did not develop systematically-formed words to record history, so the shell containers became the "truest and most intuitive material" for studying the civilization of the ancient Dian Kingdom, said Fan Haitao, deputy curator of the Yunnan Provincial Museum.

Lu Jingjie, a cultural relics restorer who has been a bronzeware restorer for more than two decades, said bronzes mostly have breakages, remnants, deficiencies, rust, and cracks.

Many steps should be taken when restoring bronzes, such as soil cleaning, de-rusting, bonding, and color-filling. The restoration work is so delicate that dental instruments are often used, said Lu.

"We pay so much attention to them to prolong the life of cultural relics and let more people know about this history," he said.

Preserving them properly for a long time is a more pertinent issue.

Pan Jiao, deputy director of the cultural relics protection center of the museum, said since 2017, to protect cultural relics, the museum has installed a small white box, which is a wireless sensor environmental monitoring terminal, in every glass showcase.

It is used to monitor the environmental temperature and humidity, organic volatiles, and ultraviolet rays. In addition, the museum has also installed isolation platforms for vulnerable cultural relics.

To let more people know about the bronze culture of the ancient Dian Kingdom, the Yunnan Provincial Museum has launched online classes to popularize knowledge of the collections in the museum among children.

Ye Zhisheng, deputy director of the information and imaging department of Yunnan Provincial Museum, said during the epidemic, the museum is still publishing online manual classes every week, teaching children to make paper products with images of animals on shellfish containers and other relics. So far, the video clips online have raked in over one million views.

"It is our responsibility to pay attention to cultivating children's interests in cultural relics and history. The concept of cultural-relic protection needs to pass down from generation to generation," said Ye.

Follow Chinafolk.org on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
spot_img

Related Posts

Starry nights on stage

From popular children's choir to Peking Opera, cultural carnival promises a surge of nostalgia as the People's Republic of China celebrates its anniversary.

Upcoming documentary show presents a rich 'Bouquet' of Chinese civilization

Within just five minutes, the extent and scope of Chinese culture is given a vivid presentation in China Bouquet, a bilingual documentary which will be for viewing on several online platforms.

Tasty tradition is sweet success for culture

Seen from afar, they are decorative polychromatic flowers, placed front and center at dining tables to feast the eyes.

High tech and art merge in Nanjing exhibition

The ongoing exhibition In the Line of Flight, for Possible Worlds at Deji Art Museum in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has attracted lots of visitors by offering them a cool experience by mixing art and technology.

​Exhibition reviews development of ancient Chinese paintings

Editor's note: A collection of more than 1,700 copies of Chinese paintings and related calligraphy works from the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.- A.D. 220) to the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) are currently on display at the National Museum of China in Beijing. 

Billboard expands its coverage in China’s market

As Billboard expands in Asia, Billboard China, a new edition, has been launched.Mike Van, who was named the new president of Billboard this May, said in an interview with China Daily that, "Billboard is further expanding its coverage in one of the biggest music markets in the world" and the move will be "bringing global pop music to Chinese fans and expose Chinese artists and music to an international audience".
- Advertisement -spot_img