In this dissertation we will be analyzing what the most involved scholar's opinions are, and using this, combined with a personal opinion as well, we will be able to discover what the meaning of the taotie motif on the Shang Dynasty bronzes is. There are so many different views that have been taken on this matter over the years, especially as of recently in particular, and by sort of consolidating these views in with our own, we will be able to not only better understand the actual meaning of the taotie motif on the bronzes, but as well be able to understand why certain people have taken the stance on it that they have. The topic we are discussing here is what the meaning - if any - of the taotie motif on the Shang Dynasty bronzes is, and in my opinion there is some form of meaning that is behind the taotie, due to the results of the studies and opinions that have been made in regards to it, and in this dissertation I will set out to prove that there is certain meaning behind the taotie motifs, as well as what that meaning is, and in order to do this I will be using the opinions and resources of prestigious and respected scholars, as well as the evidence itself that is available in regards to these Shang Dynasty bronzes and the taotie motifs that are found on them.
There are many different scholars that have taken their own stance in regards to these decoration motifs, one in particular being Sarah Allen, and Allen is one of the many who believe that the decorations are in fact directly related to that of mythology, and that they are as well representing the religious ideology of Shang people. She states that "By such means, the bronze motifs create a sense of the 'other', that which is not limited by the physical realities of this world and which can never be precisely defined. Not only are the motifs on Shang bronzes continually transformed, but their primary allusions are also to transformations of state - eating and sacrifice, the watery underworld of the dead, the dragon which is also a bird, the cicada which emerges winged from the earth, snakes which slough their skins, deer which shed their antlers, etc." (Allen, pp. 16). Allen truly puts a lot of thought into her work of the meaning of the taotie motifs, and Allen is one of the most well known scholars in regards to her stance on how there is significant meaning behind these motifs. Out of all the motifs that are present on the Shang Dynasty bronzes, she feels supremely strongly that the taotie is the most influential and powerful, and in particular regards to this she makes the statement that "Although the taotie is not representational, the image does nevertheless allude to real creatures, including the buffalo or ox, sheep, possibly the goat, deer, tiger, all of which were used to sacrifice." (Allen, pp. 20). Basically by this statement, she is trying to prove that there is significant meaning behind the taotie motifs, as interrelated are animals that were used to sacrifice, showing that there was much meaning behind these motifs. In my opinion, this is very important that there was a lot of detail and issues as considered as being a part of this issue, and as well I agree with Allen that there is