Given long history and numerous varieties of Chinese bronze sculpture, the classification aims to distinguish more clearly the nature and usage of bronze sculpture so as to facilitate the study, appreciation and collection. There are many ways of distinguishing bronze sculpture. The popular one is divided into eight categories based on the purpose, namely: agricultural implements, tools, weapons, food vessels, wine containers, water vessels, musical instruments and miscellaneous. Among the miscellaneous, they can fall into daily use, traveling devices, currency, weighing vessels and seals and as such. The china bronze sculpture can also be simply contributed into four main classes: weapons, sacrificial vessels including the food vessels and wine containers, musical instruments and miscellaneous involving with all everyday use.
Chinese bronze sculpture not only has abundant forms, but also has distinguishing artistic characteristics. Therefore they have always been the rarities that the collectors abroad and at home fall over each other in eagerness to buy. Because the shapes of ritual bronze sculpture are the most diverse, and can most represent the characteristics of bronze art, so the collectors have paid attention to Ding(鼎), Yi(彝), Bell, Guei(簋), Zun(尊), Jue(爵), You(卣), Dou(豆) and other ritual china bronze sculpture especially the ones with inscriptions which have been the focus of pursuit. Originally, the number of the bronze sculptures has been handed down is small, but the demands have always been increasing without reduction which has far exceeds supply. Hence, the price of the bronze sculpture has always been expensive, in particular, the rarities which can merely be afforded by the nobles and wealthy merchants.
In the late Qing Dynasty, Panzu Yin, the minister of the Ministry of Works in feudal Qing, was very fond of bronzes. Among his collections, the Dake ding(大克鼎) and Dayu ding(大盂鼎) are in the spotlight and strikingly attractive. The three-legged dake ding is 93.1 centimeters high and 201.5 kg weight. Its whole body is full of deformations of animal mask with erect ears and seems solemn and dignified. There are also inscriptions engraved inside the abdominal wall with a length of 290 words. Dayu Ding is 101.9 centimeters high and 133.5 kg weight, with three-column feet and big erect ears. Its shape is majestic and dignified and decorations simple and elegant. There is a 291 words long inscription which is extremely precious. These two pieces of bronze sculptures have been coveted by foreign bureaucrats and wealthy. After Pan passed away, his heirs delivered these two large tripods to his hometown in Suzhou, during which there many Americans, Japanese and the Kuomintang officials, etc., had resorted to coercion combined with inducements in order to get these two tripods. Once an American tried to use 0.6-kilogram gold or one grand foreign-style house as exchange for the tripod but refused the family of Pan. When the Japanese invaded into Suzhou, they also wanted to possess these two dings. Pan’s family feared there might be something unexpected happened to the two chinese bronze sculptures, so they buried them deeply in the courtyard. It turned out that the Japanese went to search everyday, sometimes seven times a day. Anyhow, they could not find the tripod and had to leave in a huff. In 1952, Pan’s descendants contributed the Dake Ding to Shanghai Museum and Yu Ding Xian to the Museum of Chinese History.