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Gallery Text

At its most basic level, casting bronze entails pouring a molten mixture of copper and tin into a mold and letting the mixture harden as it cools. In ancient China, the actual process was quite complex and involved ceramics technology in virtually every step. First, a model of the desired shape was created in clay and fired in a kiln; next, fresh clay was packed around this ceramic model, removed in multiple sections, and fired; and finally, the hardened section molds created in this process were reassembled around a ceramic core with space set between core and molds, and molten bronze was poured into this assemblage. The production of bronzes in China was inextricably linked to the region’s millennia-long ceramics tradition — in its use of kiln technology, its adaptation of ceramic vessels for bronze vessel shapes (such as the tripod ewer displayed here), and the creation of a casting method reliant on a potter’s skills.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Tripod ewer (gui)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 山東龍山文化 黄陶袋足鬶
Work Type
c. 2600-2000 BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China, Shandong province
Neolithic period, Shandong Longshan culture, c. 2600-2000 BCE
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
H. 38 x W. 15.9 x D. 18.9 cm (14 15/16 x 6 1/4 x 7 7/16 in.)
[Kaikodo, New York, October 1999] sold; to Walter C. Sedgwick Foundation, Woodside, CA (1999-2006), 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 Leslie Cheek, Jr., Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Tripod ewer known as a gui, said to resemble the form of a bird, with a triangular, beak-like spout, large three pouched, hollow legs resting on small pointed tips, raised bowstring lines on the body, circular bosses reminiscent of rivet heads, and handle simulating twisted rope; buff earthenware with applique decoration and handle. Longshan culture; from Shandong province.
Compare to:
(1) Tripod ewer of nearly identical form excavated in 1960 from a Longshan site at Yaoguanzhuang, Weifang, Shandong province, now in the Shandong Museum. See Zhongguo taoci quanji (The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics), vol. 1: Xinshiqi shidai (Neolithic period) (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, 2000), no. 195, pp. 207 and 311.
(2) Tripod ewer of similar form and decoration also excavated in 1960 from Yaoguanzhuang, now in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology collection, Beijing. See Yanyuan juzhen: Beijing daxue Saikele kaogu yu yishu bowuguan zhanpin xuancui [Treasures from a Swallow Garden: inaugural exhibit of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University] (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1992), cat. 31, p. 82-83.
Exhibition History

32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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