T’ang Dynasty, 618-907 B.C.E.
Materials: Bronze, Gold leaf
This object is a bronze figure of a woman who is standing on a platform. The bronze statuette has been gilded at one time, though there is not much left on the figure today. The statuette is dressed in a robe that covers her hands, which are placed in front of her. Both humans and animals are popular forms of Chinese bronze figurines. It is believed that this figure probably represents an attendant of Kuan Yin, the goddess of Mercy in Chinese culture. It is hollow which indicates how the figure was originally constructed. There is a hole located in the front of the object which probably resulted from the casting process.
The most common way in which bronze figurines were made was through the lost wax casting technique. This process is also called the cire-perdue method. During the lost wax casting process, clay is molded around a wax model of the object to be created. Next the clay and wax object is baked, changing the clay into ceramic and melting the wax. Molten metal, in this case bronze, was then poured into the empty space left by the wax, creating a mold for the figure. The lost wax process is perfect for irregularly shaped objects such as statuettes because the flexibility of the wax allows for casting bronze objects other than bowls. One common problem that occurs with the cire-perdue process is the formation of small holes in the surface of the metal figure, resulting from bubbles in the wax.
For more information about the lost wax casting process, see Joseph Veach Noble (1975: 368-369). Also see, Langdon Warner (1937: 17-20) to learn more about bronze statuettes and Dawn Ho Delbanco (1983) to find more information on the history of Chinese bronzes and an example of a Chinese bronze catalog.