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A dark green-grey cast bronze vessel that flares at the bottom and the top. The middle is long and narrow. The whole object is decorated with finely engraved lines that make a pattern except for triangle-shaped areas on the top.

A dark green-grey cast bronze vessel that stands upright on a grey background. The object flares slightly at the bottom and much more at the top. The middle is long and narrow. There are two bare, horizontal bands across the middle that are more indented than the rest of the object’s walls. The whole object is decorated with finely engraved lines that make a swirling circle pattern except for downward facing triangle-shaped areas on the top.

Gallery Text

Although there is evidence of the minor presence of copper artifacts among several late Neolithic cultures, by the dawn of the second millennium BCE, societies in northern China appear to have begun using bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) in earnest. Excavations at several Longshan culture sites along the middle and lower Yellow River valleys have yielded tools, ornaments, and vessel fragments made of bronze. Longshan black pottery vessels with design elements reminiscent of hammered metal also imply the influence of metalwork during the latter part of this otherwise Neolithic culture. Following closely after the Longshan period, Erlitou culture sites in Henan and Shanxi provinces reveal a complex, hierarchical society that produced bronze tools, weapons, vessels, and turquoise-inlaid plaques (such as those displayed here) of astonishing sophistication. The presence of such artifacts, along with the remains of bronze-casting molds at Erlitou, confirms that China had fully entered its Bronze Age by the second millennium BCE.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
'Gu' Ritual Wine Vessel with 'Taotie' Decor
Work Type
12th-11th century BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Shang dynasty (c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE) to Western Zhou period (c. 1050-771 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

Cast bronze with patina and encrustation
H. 27.9 x Diam. 16.3 cm (11 x 6 7/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Dr. Arnold Knapp, New York (by 1954), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1954.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Arnold Knapp
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Exhibition History

  • S427: Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Jades, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008
  • Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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