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Shi Qiang bronze pan vessel. Middle Western Zhou period, Seal Script

Shi Qiang bronze pan vessel. Middle Western Zhou period, end of tenth century BCE. From JZhuangbai, Fufeng, Shaanxi Province.

The Shi Qiang pan vessel is in many respects the most important of all Western Zhou bronze vessels, a position attributable almost entirely to its 270-character-long inscription (see detail below), which might justly be described as the first conscious historical writing in China.

In two balanced halves, it juxtaposes an outline of the first seven Western Zhou kings with a similar genealogy of four generations of the Wei family. The inscription concludes with a prayer that Qiang's own merits be acknowledged and that he be granted a long life so that he may contiue to serve the Zhou kings. The inscription is equally important as evidence for the rise of poetry in China, being stylistically identical to the four-character rhyming line structure of the Shi Jing (Classic of Poetry).


Shi Qiang bronze pan vessel. Middle Western Zhou period, Seal Script

Inscription of the Shi Qiang pan:

Accordant with antiquity was the Cultured King!He first brought harmony to government.Di on High sent down fine virtue and great security.Extending it above and below,he joined the ten thousand countries.

Capturing and controlling was the Martial King!He proceeded and campaigned through the four quarters,piercing Yin and governing its people. Eternally unfearful of the Distant Ones, oh, he attacked the Yi minions.

Model and sagely was the Completed King! To the left and right he cast and gathered his net and line, therewith opening and integrating the Zhou country.

Deep and wise was the Vigorous King!He divided command and pacified the borders.

Vast and substantial was the Radiant King! He broadly tamed Chu and Jing; it was to connect the southern route.

Reverent and illustrious was the Stately King! He patterned himself on and followed the great counsels.

Continuing and tranquil is the Son of Heaven!The Son of Heaven strives to carry onthe long valor of the Cultured and Martial kings.The Son of Heaven is diligent and without flaw,faithfully making offerings to the spirits above and below,and reverently making glorious the great plans.

Heavenly radiant and incorruptible, Di on High, Hou Ji, and the witch protectors give to the Son of Heaven an extensive mandate, thick blessings, and an abundant harvest. Among the borderland man-savages, there are none who do not hasten to present themselves.

Pure and retiring was the High Ancestor! He was at the numinous place of Wei. When the Martial King had already defeated Yin,the Wei scribes and valorous ancestors then came to present themselves to the Martial King. The Martial King then commanded the Duke of Zhou to dispense to them domicile at a low place of Zhou.

Happy and helpful was Ancestor Yi! He assisted and served his ruler, distantly planning with belly and heart his sons' acceptance.
Clear-eyed and bright was Grandfather Xin of the branch lineage!

Transferring and nurturing sons and grandsons, he had abundant good fortune and many blessings.Even horned and redly gleaming, appropriate were his sacrifices.

Extending and even was my cultured deceased- father! Duke Yi was strong and bright, obtaining purity without debts: the agriculture was well ordered.
It is the servant filial and friendly Scribe Qiang morning and night does not fail;may he daily have his merits acknowledged. Qiang does not dare to stop, and in response extols the Son of Heaven's illustriously beneficent command, herewith making this treasured offertory vessel.

Would that his valorous grandfather and cultured deceased father grant favor, and give Qiang vibrant freshness, fortunate peace, blessed wealth, a yellowing old age, and a prolonged lifeso that he may be worthy to serve his ruler. May he for ten thousand years eternally treasure and use it.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 July 2011 03:42