Varenov A.V.  

Ancient Chinese Horse Bits and Cheek Pieces of the Late Bronze Age

Horses and horse bridles appeared in China at Shang-Yin period (XIII-XI centuries B.C.). Bronze flat square cheek pieces with the side measuring approximately 7 cm are specific for that time. They have a round central hole, and an arched or rectangular loop on the lower edge, but no prongs. At one of the sides both above and below the central hole there were horizontal hollow metal ribs or oval tubes parallel to the lower loop, used to pass bifurcated cheek straps. In all cases when the cheek-pieces were found in situ their flat side looked inside, to the horse’s cheek, and the side with ribs looked outside. Shang-time horses buried with bridles on had no metal bits in their mouths. Perhaps at that time horse bits were made of leather or tendon straps. Though bronze bits consisting of two parts in the shape of figure 8 were known at late Shang time, they were very scarce. At the Western Zhou period (XI-VIII centuries B.C.) a horse bridle continues to develop Shang-Yin traditions. Metal horse bits are used much wider, there appear bronze cheek pieces of different forms (round, comma-shaped or crescent-shaped), but their construction repeats Yin patterns. All of them have two horizontal tubes for the bifurcated cheek strap above and below the central hole, used for bits. At the same time, there appear pillar-shaped antler cheek pieces with three holes perpendicular to each other and their bronze imitations.

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