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Art Diary

Phoenix Kingdoms: The Last Splendor of China’s Bronze Age

14 April 2024

During China’s Bronze Age, which began some 4,000 years ago, the southern states of Zeng and Chu were highly advanced hubs of production, known for their abundance of textiles, jade and lacquer. However, the aggressive unification of the nation in the 3rd century BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, led to the near erasure of these kingdoms’ rich cultural histories. It is these histories that are being celebrated in an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (19 April–22 July). Drawing on recent archaeological discoveries, it unearths the long-forgotten splendour of these states and their material culture through more than 150 objects and artworks from five major Chinese museums. Many of these are on display for the first time, symbolically ‘rising from the ashes’ to reclaim their place in Chinese history. Find out more from the Asian Art Museum’s website.

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Lei wine vessel with dragon (c. 1000 BC), Western Zhou period. Photo: © Suizhou Municipal Museum

Body armour and helmet (c. 300 BC), Warring States period. Photo: © Hubei Provincial Museum

Conjoined cups with phoenix design (c. 316 BC), Warring States period. Photo: © Hubei Provincial Museum