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Gallery Text

By the Eastern Han period (when the Han capital was located in present-day Luoyang, Henan province), Chinese potters had discovered the efficacy of using lead-fluxed glazes for their ceramic burial wares. As a fluxing agent, lead oxide lowers the melting point of a glaze, reducing the amount of fuel required for firing. Copper and iron metal oxides were added to the glaze to impart the green and brown colors reminiscent of bronzes with different patinas; they were thus especially useful for glazing ceramic wares that imitated more expensive bronze ritual vessels. The decorative elements on these objects—mystical mountains with swirling clouds, mythical beasts, immortal figures, and bear-form supports—are associated with cosmological realms of immortals and closely replicate the relief ornamentation on sumptuous Han bronzes. Although the tombs of the most wealthy and important Han personages continued to be furnished luxuriously, ceramic reproductions of expensive burial goods and tomb sculptures representing animals, servants, and entertainers became acceptable substitutes for real objects and living creatures.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Water dropper in the form of a Quadruped
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 西晋 釉陶獸形硯滴
Artists' Tools
Work Type
water dropper
3rd-4th century CE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Jin dynasty, Western Jin period, 266-317
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1600, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Bronze Age to the Golden Age
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Physical Descriptions

Earthenware with brown lead glaze
Lead glaze
H. 6.4 x L. 12.9 x W. 5.7 cm (2 1/2 x 5 1/16 x 2 1/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[J. J. Lally & Co., New York, January 2001] sold; to Walter C. Sedgwick Foundation, Woodside, CA (2001-2006), partial gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2006.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Partial gift of the Walter C. Sedgwick Foundation and partial purchase through the David Stone Bequest Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Small vessel in the form of a winged quadruped, with head bowed and erbei wine cup attached to its forehead; with short tubular opening on the creature’s back and small circular opening on the forehead to dispense water into the cup; red earthenware with lead-fluxed, caramel-brown glaze over molded, incised, and applique decoration.
Compare to:
(1) Glazed ceramic water dropper in the form of a winged monster holding an erbei wine cup in its mouth excavated in 1974 from a Western Jin brick tomb dated 301 CE near Dushan village, Zou county, Zoucheng, Shandong province. See Wenwu [Cultural Relics] 1 (2005): 21, fig. 47.
(2) Glazed ceramic water dropper in the form of a winged and horned monster holding an erbei wine cup in its mouth excavated in 2005 from a Western Jin brick tomb dated 289 CE in Linyi, Shandong province. See Wenwu [Cultural Relics] 7 (2005): 28, fig. 77.
(3) Bronze water dropper in the form of a winged and horned monster excavated in 1998 from an early Eastern Jin (317–420 CE) brick tomb near Mount Xianhe, Nanjing, Jiangsu province. See Wenwu [Cultural Relics] 3 (2001): 10, fig. 17.
(4) Bronze water dropper in the form of a winged and horned monster excavated in 2010 from a Western Jin brick tomb in Jiaozuo, Henan province. See Wenwu [Cultural Relics] 9 (2011): 64, fig. 18.

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 1600 Early China II, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Sedgwick Collection

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at