Niu-bell with Coiled Chi-Dragon Patterns (Part of a Bianzhong Bell Set)

Accession No. R020219
Period Eastern Chou
Material Bronze
Findspot Tomb No. 60 Liu-li-ko Site
Geographic Location Chengguan Town, Hui County, Henan Province, China
Dimension H. 19.3 cm; Diam. of rim 11.1 cm


This niu-bell was found at Tomb 60, Liulige, Hui County, Henan Province and is one of a 9-piece bianzhong chime-bells set. Niu-bells appeared around the end of the Western Zhou, they were formed of 8 pieces. During the mid-Spring and Autumn period, a sequential set of niu-bells would contain nine; later, the number of niu-bell sets were expanded and became non-standardized to improve the musical performance. Each bell could make particular pitches in the music scale, moreover, each bell could produce two distinct pitches by striking the center or the side of the bell. Basic elements of a niu-bell include the wu at the top, mei raised bosses on the body, zhuan decorative bands that alternate with mei, and gu the striking area at the bottom. The specimen has an undecorated niu handle and a rectangular hole in the center of the topThe whole piece bears 36 spiral bosses in the shape of a coiled kui-dragon, and the base of the bell ends with an arc-shaped mouth. On the top, the body and the striking area are encircled with coiled chi-dragon patterns, while the artistic composition of the patterns on the top of the piece and the center of the striking area resemble animal-mask patterns. The musical instrument was produced by the piece-mold technique.