History KS2: How the Early Chinese Made Bronzes

Michael Wood visits a state of the art science laboratory in Nanjing. He investigates a beautiful bronze bowl, over 2,500 years old, trying to find out exactly how it was made and how many different parts there are.

We then get a ringside seat as a bronze caster tries to make an exact replica. He is very nervous, as he doesn't think he is skilful enough to make an exact copy!

We see the mould being made and then molten bronze poured in. After cooling, the bowl is removed and all the different pieces - handles, plum blossom, gilded inlaid dragons - are assembled.

It is a step by step guide to making a beautiful bronze bowl - and to appreciate the skills of an Ancient Civilisation.

This clip is from the BBC series The Story of China. A series of videos exploring the stories, people and landscapes that have helped create China's distinctive character and genius over four thousand years.

Teacher Notes

You could get your class to look carefully at the original bowl and ask:

What decorations can they see?

What were bowls like this used for?

How do we know who owned them?

What do bowls like this tell us about Ancient Civilisations?

You could also ask:

How were bowls like this made?

How many separate pieces of bronze make up the bowl?

How many pieces of decoration?

You could compare the way Shang bowls were made with the way bronze swords were made in Bronze-Age Britain.

Curriculum Notes

This clip is relevant for teaching history at Key Stage 2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and at Second Level in Scotland.

More from The Story of China

How People Were Created
How Humans Got Fire
How the Shang Invented Writing
How King Yu Controlled the Flood
How We Know About the Shang
The Rise and Fall of the Shang