Emphasis on Visual and Tactile Experiences: Mechanical Treatments of Bronzes and Jades In Ancient China

Kin Sum (Sammy) Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article presents fresh evidence and arguments regarding the historical study of sensory experience through a focus on the mechanical treatments of bronzes and jades in ancient China. The techniques employed to polish and engrave hard bronze surfaces before the invention of iron tools that are harder than bronze remain a mystery. The article provides new insights into engraved/chiseled bronze inscriptions, which can be too easily dismissed by connoisseurs as fake. Through a focus on post-processing techniques for cast bronze objects made before 1 b.c.e. in China and exchanges of techniques between bronze producers and jade workers, I argue that some of the traces found on bronze objects that may have been left by working with abrasives such as those used in lapidary industry demonstrate that lapidary techniques and post-processing of cast bronze objects were interrelated. Investigations as to how bronze and jade producers interacted show that they aimed to improve the visual and tactile experiences for their customers or patrons. Active and frequent exchanges of ideas and techniques took place between the bronze and jade production communities. Their emphasis on visual and tactile experiences demonstrates how such industrial powers developed in ancient China and how they were sustained throughout the last two millennia b.c.e.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-43
Number of pages43
JournalEarly China
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy
  • Religious studies
  • History
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • abrasive
  • bronze
  • chisel
  • jade
  • 中國
  • 玉石
  • 解玉砂
  • 鑿刻
  • 青銅


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