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Bronze Drum Traditions of Vietnam and Southwest China: A Shared Indigenous Tradition

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Elias, Hajnalka 


The Bronze Age civilisations of Dian, located in the vicinity of Lake Dian in today’s Yunnan province, and Dong Son, on the banks of the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam, are noted for their advanced bronze-working traditions and impressive material culture. Contemporaneous in their dating between the period of the fifth century B.C.E. to the first century C.E., the two cultures produced remarkable bronze wares, in particular bronze drums. These musical instruments were associated with elaborate ritual practices as well as being distinguishing markers of rank and status. To date, over 450 bronze drums have been excavated in Yunnan and in northern Vietnam alone, and many more from other regions of Southeast Asia (including Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia), raising questions as to their origins. Scholars from China and Vietnam, in particular, are eager to claim them as originally from their country, despite their visible relatedness in shape and decorative style, suggesting a close interaction and artistic exchange between the two cultures (Yao 2017: 503).



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Arts of Asia

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Arts of Asia Publications

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Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship