Japanese | English

Ancient Chinese Bronzes:
The Sakamoto Collection

Ritual Bronzes Gallery

The works on display are part of the 380 ancient Chinese bronzes donated by Mr. Gorō Sakamoto.

Mr. Sakamoto was the first president of the antique shop Fugendō, and is also well known as a collector of ancient artworks. Mr. Sakamoto dedicated half his lifetime to collecting these bronze works and donated them to the museum. His donation consists primarily of ritual vessels and musical instruments of the Shang (Yin) to Han dynasties (17th c. B.C.E.~3rd c.C.E.), but also includes weapons, horse and chariot fittings, and writing implements. The Chinese Bronze Age is considered to have begun in approximately 2000 B.C.E. and continue through the subsequent three dynasties—the Xia, Shang and Zhou—until the 3rd century B.C.E. (late Warring States period). Chinese ritual vessels in the Shang and Zhou dynasties are called Yi, and are regarded as the most advanced artworks among the world’s bronze cultures.

In the Shang (Yin) dynasty, Yi vessels were used in rituals to worship the ancestors enshrined in family mausoleums.

In the Zhou dynasty, the practice of rituals to worship ancestors became formalized, and the function of bronzes was expanded. The accumulation of large numbers of bronzes became a status symbol for nobles, ministers, and government officials. Bronze musical instruments were also developed for ceremonies.

The Sakamoto Collection includes many fine examples such as the You (Wine Vase) with Phoenix Design (Late Shang–Early Zhou dynasty). The collection also includes important examples of Yi ritual vessels with various decorative patterns produced during the periods from the Erligang phase, the early Shang dynasty (17th c. B.C.E.–15th Century B.C.E.), through the later Shang dynasty (Yinxu period) and the Zhou dynasty, to the Qin-Han dynasties. These are distinctive groups with characteristic decorative motifs and provide fine examples for understanding ancient Chinese bronzes; they play an important role in historical reference to ancient China.

Major works on display:
Jue (wine pitcher); Gu (wine vessel); Long-neck Zun (wine vessel); Gu-shaped Zun; Fang Yi (food vessel); Lei (wine vessel); Ding (three-leg vessel);Ge (food container); Dou (sacrificial vessel); Pan (water vessel); Hu (pot); Zhong (bell); Pian Hu (oval jar); Suantou Hu (garlic-shaped spouted-vessel); Zao (cooking oven); Boshanlu (incense burner); Zhenzi (weight); Nao (cymbal); Chunyu (drum)

You with a Phoenix design
You with a Phoenix design

Vase with curved patterns
Vase with curved patterns

Ding (three-leg vessel) with designs of Chinese mythological creatures
Ding (three-leg vessel) with designs of Chinese mythological creatures