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Bronze Artifact: Chinese Ding
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Bronze Artifact: Chinese Ding

Late Shang Dynasty Chinese Ding

Late Shang Dynasty Chinese Ding

license: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
source: Wikimedia Commons
author: Mountain

A photograph shows a large bronze cauldron, dark grey with aqua green patches. The cauldron has three legs on the bottom and two handles along the top edge. Most of the outside surface is covered with decorative reliefs and carved patterns.


Artifact: 1300–1000 BC

Photo: February 2006


This Chinese ding is from the late Shang Dynasty, likely crafted between 1300 and 1000 BC. In China’s early bronze age, ding were primarily use only for cooking and holding food or wine. Toward the end of this period, ding came to be a symbol of power and authority, and served more of a ritualistic purpose. Nobility and royalty would display these cauldrons as a symbol of their own authority or importance.

Chinese martial artists during the Warring States period (475 BC–221 BC) would sometimes compete in lifting these cauldrons, which could weigh up to several hundred pounds. As ding typically had two handles, either one or two men could attempt the lift.

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Chen, J., Xu, J., Fu, J., Chang, W. H., & Barrett, J. M. (2011). Along the Yangzi River: Regional culture of the Bronze Age from Hunan. New York: China Institute Gallery.

Defoort, C., & Standaert, N. (2013). The Mozi as an evolving text: Different voices in early Chinese thought. BRILL.

Fong, W., Bagley, R. W., So, J. F., & Hearn, M. K. (1980). The great bronze age of China: An exhibition from the People’s Republic of China. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.