The remarkable outdoor bronze seated Buddha, also known as the Tian Tan Buddha, sits outside the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. One of the five largest Buddha statues in China, it measures thirty four meters (one hundred twelve feet ) tall, and weighs two hundred fifty metric tons. The construction took roughly three years to complete, starting in 1990 and finishing on the day of the enlightenment of Buddha, December 29, 1993. The statue consists of two hundred two pieces of bronze, and contains a steel framework inside to provide support of the heavy load.Originally, the idea was to use reinforced concrete to mold and shape the entire Buddha, however; the implemented material was going to sustain structural and cost issues in the long run.
As so, the Nanjing Chengguang Machinery Plant of the China Astronautics Science and Technology Consultant Corporation insisted a more dependable material to be used in the project, bronze. But why did the team select bronze rather than concrete to be used as the essential outer material of the statue? Ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Romans found bronze to have a distinct advantage than other metals such as pure copper.As bronze being ninety percent copper and ten percent tin, the alloy had advantages such as: the difference in tensile strength bronze had compared to copper, and the low liquid melting point the alloy had in order to stay longer in this form for casting. The people during these times found many uses of this material, hence where the Bronze Age came to be. For instance, bronze weapons were widely manufactured during these time such as swords and shields, causing stone weapons to became almost extinct to human civilization. Additionally, the advancement of these weapons changed the type of warfare and the way of living these people endured.
These civilizations recognized the potential tensile strength bronze possessed. Many people used bronze pans for cooking materials and other tools of craftsmanship such as a hammer. Besides the tools made in these ancient civilizations, the people made religious artifices and funerary objects, which shaped the history and culture during these times. According to www. bronzeandglass.
com, in 2000 B. C, the Chinese dynasty’s hierarchical structure was greatly influenced from bronze; casting ornate vessels and goblets to represent royalty. By using this ancient material, the project would significantly benefit since it is nearly indestructible.In order to fulfill this enormous masterpiece, the project was individually divided into stages, each representing a different piece of the statue. A technical staff used a method called, stereographic photography where they made a smaller version of the statue to carefully map certain positions of the final version of the figure.
In other words, accurate measurements were taken of the statue to locate the placement of these parts. Besides stereographic photography as being one of the essential methods to create this statue, the main process used to fabricate the metal and mold was “ the lost wax method. ”According to www. CaneQuest. com, this specific casting method is an ancient process used by many civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.
Till this day, the lost wax method is one of the most fundamental and widely used process to render such exquisite details in metal objects, for instance the detail to make Buddha’s face. Initially, a wax model is molded out of clay, sand, and other materials. As being the first step in the process, it is also the most critical procedure since the final product depends on the wax model. Any crucial detail must be made in the wax model in order to fulfill the artist’s desire.There must be a consistency of labor involved to make the sculpture posses the least amount of errors.
A liquid rubber is poured around the wax model to provide a “ negative “ or hollow casing of the shape. Once this has been fulfilled, molten wax is injected inside the rubber mold to form the original shape of the wax. The mold is covered with heavy clay to prevent the mold to break during the pouring process of the metals. Moreover, this is heated to melt the wax, which will filter out of a small opening and be recycled for later use; hence why the process is named "lost wax".The remaining mold is a hollow plaster in which every detail and surface area created by the wax model is shown vividly. Finally, the melted metal, such as bronze, silver, gold, etc.
, is carefully poured into the plaster model. Additionally, the metal has cooled and the plaster mold is removed to reveal the metal sculpture as the final product. The metal statue can be polished, trimmed or smoothed out depending on the final outcome. Typically, a polish is given on the outer exterior to expose the fine details of the statue, and to present the smoothness of the metal.
The hundreds of pieces planned to use for the Tian Tan Buddha were made using this specific method, with a thickness ranging from ten millimeters to thirteen millimeters. As mentioned before, careful inspection was needed to ensure a small margin of error. According to an article on www. plm. org, the team performed such a crucial examination on each piece that left them a three-millimeter error.
Additionally, once all the individual pieces were made, they were connected to the main inner steel framework of the statue; creating one of the largest Buddha sculptures in the world.In conclusion, the suitable metal fabrication, the lost-wax method, was one of the main procedures used in ancient times that shaped the culture and technology for what it is today. The Tian Tan Buddha sculpture is a prime example of a cultural artifact today that has molded and created a valuable heritage to mankind. The world today would have not had a major influence to use bronze, and other metals, as an essential material for all kinds of structures being built now and for the future.