Concept

Ding (vessel)

Summary
Ding (鼎) are prehistoric and ancient Chinese cauldrons, standing upon legs with a lid and two facing handles. They are one of the most important shapes used in Chinese ritual bronzes. They were made in two shapes: round vessels with three legs and rectangular ones with four, the latter often called fangding. They were used for cooking, storage, and ritual offerings to the gods or to ancestors. The earliest recovered examples are pre-Shang ceramic ding at the Erlitou site but they are better known from the Bronze Age, particularly after the Zhou deemphasized the ritual use of wine practiced by the Shang kings. Under the Zhou, the ding and the privilege to perform the associated rituals became symbols of authority. The number of permitted ding varied according to one's rank in the Chinese nobility: the Nine Ding of the Zhou kings were a symbol of their rule over all China but were lost by the first emperor, Shi Huangdi in the late 3rd century BCE. Subsequently, imperial authority was represented by the Heirloom Seal of the Realm, carved out of the sacred Heshibi; it was lost at some point during the Five Dynasties after the collapse of the Tang. In Chinese history and culture, possession of one or more ancient ding is often associated with power and dominion over the land. Therefore, the ding is often used as an implicit symbolism for power. The term "inquiring of the ding" () is often used interchangeably with the quest for power. In the early Bronze Age of China, the use of wine and food vessels served a religious purpose. While ding were the most important food vessels, wine vessels were the more prominent ritual bronzes of this time, likely due to the belief in Shamanism and spirit worship. Ding were used to make ritual sacrifices, both human and animal, to ancestors. They varied in size, but were generally quite large, indicating that whole animals were likely sacrificed. The sacrifices were meant to appease ancestors due to the Shang belief that spirits had the capability to affect the world of the living.
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