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Pair of mid 20th century Bronze rain drum side tables. Having intricate geometric decoration throughout the top and body. Along the top are four beautifully realized frogs. The body showcased sculptural elephants, Koi fish and handles. Round glass tops can be added for modernization.
All night, the sound of rain on my sail, among the reeds-
drop after drop
leading my dreams through the rivers and lakes.
-Chin Nung (1687–1764), from Mooring in the Rain at Sung-Ling
Rain Drums, also known as Bronze Drums, are functional objects with a higher purpose. Originally crafted as tribal drums used in Southeast Asian rituals, their hollow bronze shape transforms the sound of monsoon rains into music. The characteristics that once endowed these drums with sacred power now make them objects of great aesthetic and acoustic beauty.
Rain Drums originated with the Dong Son culture in Southeast Asia, dating as far back as the mid-to-late Bronze Age (1,000–700 BC). Metal workers poured and set molten bronze in a cast, freed the hardened drums from their molds, then carved them with intricate motifs as the metal cooled. The art of sculpting bronze drums remains a refined skill, acquired over many years and passed on through apprenticeships.
Long associated with water and rain, the drums were at one time used in boats to keep time for oarsmen and signal to other ships. In Southeast Asian ritual, rain drums were played to make music for spirits and communicate with ancestors. The intricate patterns on the tops of rain drums reference creatures associated with the rainy season. Toads and frogs, for example, are water creatures that symbolize the moon. Geometric motifs, such as eight-pointed stars or wheels with 12 spokes, are often inscribed on the drums to bring luck.
Families that owned rain drums were blessed with wealth and power. The ability to offer music to the rain gods implied a measure of control over agrarian China’s most valuable resource. As the incarnation of female yin and male yang, rain was not only important to physical sustenance, but spiritual survival as well. Even today, rain drums are highly valued objects. Prized for their longevity, rain drums combine the yang attribute of strength with the yin quality of delicate beauty.
In modern gardens, rain drums continue to fulfill their age-old purpose, echoing the music of rainfall. Bronze drums can also be used indoors as tables, stools, and plant stands. The graceful combination of opposites that ancient craftsmen used to evoke the harmony of yin and yang now appeals to contemporary designers for similar reasons-bronze drums are durable yet delicate, a striking balance of form and function.
Good Vintage Condition; some corrosion to one from use and age
18.25" x 23.5"d; surface 17"