Search by Subject
Search by Institution
Bronze drum

Tags: copper drum | craft

Copper drums were the traditional instruments of minority tribes in southwest China. Since ancient times, minority tribes in the southwest have treated the copper drum as a symbol of power and wealth Besides being used as musical instrument, it also was used for communication, to gather the tribe together, to worship, and for battle Some places even used copper drums as burial articles. The round face of the drum faces up. The body is cylindrical, curving in at the waist, with one protruding divide at the waist. There are handles on the shoulders, and an open foot, hollow on the bottom. The casting technique is similar to the bronze in the Plains. However, there is an extra tuning procedure – they trimmed off the extra inner walls from the hollow bottom. The decoration of the copper drum is quite fascinating. A sun is the most important design on the face of the drum. There are three-dimensional carvings on the outer rim on the face of the drum. The most common design was of a frog, so this copper drum is often called a ‘frog drum'. The disc of the sun is in the center, with beams radiating out to the rest of the drum. After the sun there are six fuzzy circles from inside to outside. The circle closest to the outside has six copper frogs. There are 27 fuzzy circles from the top to the bottom of the drum. There are designs of clouds and lightning and there are coin shapes in the circles. The work is quite delicate.
Along with the geometric designs on the body of the drum, the figures of plants, animals and humans eloquently express the lifestyle of these southwest tribes in this ancient time.


National Museum of History