Detail View: The AMICA Library: Pole Fitting

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: 
Pole Fitting
Full view
Creation Date: 
Eastern Zhou period, 3rd century BCE
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Bronze inlaid with silver
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
North China
2 3/4 x 7 1/8 x 2 1/4 in. (7 x 18.1 x 5.7 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
The description of the Shang (c. 1700-c. 1050 BCE) and Zhou (c. 1050-221 BCE) periods in Chinese history as a Great Bronze Age stems from both the astonishing variety of shapes and motifs found in their ritual vessels and the sheer technical complexity involved in producing them. The Zhou, one of a number of peoples who inhabited parts of northwest China, defeated the Shang and established a capital in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. This early part of the dynasty is known as the Western Zhou (c. 1050-771 BCE). Rivals ultimately forced the Zhou to move their base farther east to Luoyang in Henan Province. The second half of the period is called the Eastern Zhou (770-221 BCE), probably best known as the age of Confucius.

Silver inlay was used to create the flowing spirals and curves that embellish this bronze pole fitting with a clasp in the shape of a crouching tiger. The fluidity and openness of the inlay decoration helps to date this piece to the 3rd century BCE, because the design of earlier bronzes with this method of decoration is generally denser and more static. Also called 'tube couplers,' pole ornaments such as this were most likely used to join two parts of a wooden pole. The elegance of this example suggests that it was used as a decorative element for a chariot, palanquin, or some other extravagance.

The appearance of abstract designs and inlaid decoration and the use of bronze to make luxurious and beautiful items for everyday use illustrate the shifting roles of bronze items during the last part of the Zhou dynasty. Bronzes were no longer a privilege of the ruling class, and bronze vessels once reserved primarily for rituals were now used at state banquets, in family festivities, as diplomatic gifts, and in dowries.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 51.
Related Document Description: 
Bunker, Emmy Cadwalader. The Art of Eastern Chou, 772-221 B.C. New York: Chinese Art Society of America, 1962, p. 26.
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