Hierarchical, Ethnic, and Provenance Features of Western Zhou Period Proto-Porcelain in Northern China: New Evidence of a Redistribution System During the Western Zhou Dynasty
- Asian Perspectives
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 60, Number 2, 2021
- pp. 417-443
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Proto-porcelain from the Western Zhou Dynasty was considered highly valuable at the time and possibly originated in southern China. However, detailed information about proto-porcelain—the status and ethnic background of its owners, its inclusion in sets of objects, its regional and chronological features, and, most importantly, its provenance—is still unclear today. This article examines these aspects by conducting a comprehensive archaeological context analysis and comparison study. During the Western Zhou Dynasty, proto-porcelain was frequently used by Shang people, while among the Zhou people, only members of the central court and residents of a few important regional states with the surname Ji used proto-porcelain. With few exceptions, proto-porcelain objects were mostly owned by high-status groups. From the central court to regional states, proto-porcelain burial assemblages and typology were uniform. Considering the radial distribution pattern from the central court to peripheral areas, a redistribution system might have existed. A typological comparison suggests that most proto-porcelain found in the north came from the Qiantangjiang valley in Zhejiang Province. The proto-porcelain might have been custom ordered by the central court and then redistributed to different regional states in certain sets. This redistribution system was also applied to high-quality bronze vessels, the pattern of which reveals the central court's political strategy.