Alloy of copper and tin with usually small amounts of other elements such as gold, silver, zinc, aluminum or lead. First appearing in western Asia in the 4th millennium BC, bronze has been used throughout the world for weapons, coins, and a diverse range of utilitarian household items, owing to its strength, hardness, and durability. Its fluidity when molten makes it one of the most suitable mediums for casting sculpture and decorative objects.
The Bronze Age in China extended from 2000 to 500 BC The development of bronze technology provided better tools for increased productivity and more effective weapons.
Bronze vessels cast during the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC) were used in state rituals and in other rituals concerned with communication with ancestors or gods. The belief that deceased spirits had powers to influence events on earth was important in early Chinese culture. Since spirits were all-powerful, they had to be propitiated. The most important way to appease them was with periodic sacrifices, during which offerings of food and drink were made and the spirits were invited to partake in a ritual meal. In addition to being used for such ceremonies, bronze vessels were often buried in tombs.
Excavations at Anyang, the capital city of China during the late Shang period, have revealed large palace buildings, workshops, and burial sites with many bronze vessels. These vessels were mainly cast for the king and the nobility. The Zhou people defeated the Shang and established a new capital at Xi'an. Under the Zhou (11th century - 221 BC), bronze vessels, which had been used only for rituals and to honor ancestors became items of luxury and power.