The first month, Early auspicious, Dinghai day
I, Yun’er, the younger son of King Kang of Xu, chose these Auspicious Metals to cast myself a harmonious bell:
Endlessly peal and toll!
Primally call the Resounding Brilliant One!
Resounding celebrate the Primal Achiever!
Drinking wine from a basin,
in harmony the Hundred Nobles meet:
Skilled in Awesome Deportment.
Charitable in Luminous Sacrifice.
I feast, please, and entertain
the celebrated guest
and our fathers, brothers, and clan sons:
Extended longevity limitless!
Sons and grandsons eternally
Protect and strike this bell!
— from “Yun’er’s Bell”
(trans. Constance A. Cook)
Yun’er is, according to translator Constance A. Cook in an email interview with the Reader, “a complete mystery and probably not a poet.” Ancient bronzes were crafted, Cook says, to celebrate earthly achievements, to convey prayers to the ancestors — “and to impress the living. Probably an entire team of craftsmen and scribes were involved in producing Yun’er’s (and other similar bells) at the time. The texts were generated by multiple voices over time and adapted by the ritual scribes to a particular inscription at a particular time for a particular person.”