Art and Culture of Early China



Beichen Chen

Course Description

The course is arranged on the basis of the collections in Macau Museum, which includes Chinese ceramics, bronzes, tomb sculptures and other representitives of China’s art and culture. It considers the ways in which China’s art and culture were changed through contact across the Euroasia steppe. It focuses on three main questions:

  1. what are the representatives of China’s art and culture?
  2. why they are different from that in the West?
  3. how they are connected with the Western world?

Through regional interactions, Chinese people adopted exotics from their neighbours, such as the early metallurgy and the use of sculpture, but the Chinese way of using them were greatly different from that in their original contexts, such as the invention of piece-mould method for casting complicated bronze ritual vessels, and the massive production of the Terracotta Warriors and the Han tomb sculptures. In later centuries, products from China also went the other way around, such as ceramics and porcelain, paper, and tea, which became exotics along the traditional Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road.


Beichen Chen who holds an M.Litt. in Archaeological Studies from the University of Glasgow, and a D.Phil. in Chinese Art History and Archaeology from the University of Oxford. He is currently a senior lecturer at the Capital Normal University, Beijing, having previous worked for the British Museum in England, and the Burrell Collection in Scotland. His research focuses on Chinese bronzes in the second and the first millennium BC, and regional interactions between China and the West. His recent publications include Cultural Interactions in the Zhou Period (c.a. 1000-350 BC), A Study of Networks from the Suizao Corridor (Author. Oxford: Archaeopress 2019), and Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology (Contributor. New York: Springer, 2020). He is currently undertaking a research project funded by the National Social Science Fund of China from 2020 to 2022: A Study of Craftsmanship of the inscriptions on bronzes from the Zeng state.