Abstract: The exceptional quality and enormous quantity of bronzes included in the elite tombs of the Dian Culture in central Yunnan Province provide an excellent opportunity to explore the interplay among craft specialization, ritual, and political power. Although Yunnan contains some of China’s richest deposits of copper, lead, and tin, the early phases of bronze metallurgy there are still very poorly represented in the archaeological record. By the mid-first millennium bc, however, the technology of bronze production had reached a very high level of sophistication, and bronzes played a crucial military, ritual, and social role in Dian society. It appears that a close, symbiotic relationship existed between Dian metallurgical craftsmen and their elite patrons. Present evidence suggests that possession of bronzes, and the control over the means to produce them, invested the Dian elite with the ability to acquire and maintain power and control over their own people and many of their neighbors. Among the Dian, primarily endogenous political and ritual developments fostered the rapid specialization of the metallurgical craft. Under the patronage of the Dian elite, metalworkers developed complicated methods of casting using piece-molds and investment processes (such as lost wax casting), combined with a variety of mechanical joinery techniques to produce vibrant and detailed scenes of warfare, ritual, and other aspects of Dian life. With the careful attention devoted to details of ethnic identification, military prowess, social status, and ritual activities, these objects both legitimated and maintained Dian political and religious power and prestige in the eyes of the Dian people and of their non-Dian neighbors.
Abstract: The stylistic variation in Dian bronze art delineates thesociety of the Dian culture (4th century BC-1st century AD) as a hierarchical one that also had affinities to awide range of alien cultures. Further studies of archaeo-logical materials uncovered in Yunnan sites reveal that population movements, continual cultural assimilation,and frequent technological exchanges in and around Yunnan resulted in the creation of a hybrid bronze art,which was eventually transplanted on to the indigenouscultural stratum in east-central Yunnan.
Abstract: Surface collection, exposed sections and the use of irrigation wells and channels enabled the authors to map the settlement patternof the elusive Dian kingdom before it became a subsidiary of the Han empire. The pattern showed that the Dian were already hierarchical, with settlements of different sizes and a political centre in which ritual bronzes featured. The empire redrew the landscape,with settlement migrating away from the wetlands into the hills where it could oversee the routes of communication into Southeast Asia.