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A green-orange cast bronze box-shaped vessel with a sloped lid. The entire piece is inscribed with detailed, swirling designs. The edges have protruding swirling cut-out pieces along all of them.

A mottled green-orange cast bronze box-shaped vessel with a sloped lid stands upright on a grey background and faces diagonally left. The entire piece is inscribed with detailed, swirling designs with two thick bands of vertical lines along the body and lid. The edges and middle walls have large, protruding swirling cut-out pieces along them. The lid has a small sloped knob on the very top of it. The foot reaches the wall edges and goes straight down.

Gallery Text

The architectonic form of this ritual wine vessel demonstrates the close relationship between technique and design in the casting of ritual bronzes. In ancient China, molten bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) was poured into ceramic molds made up of multiple sections fitted together around a ceramic core; the space between the molds and the core determined the thickness of the vessel’s walls. This technique, which allowed decorative designs to be carved into the mold easily, resulted in highly symmetrical vessels whose ornamentation was contained within spaces defined by the size and shape of each mold section. Each side of this rectangular wine container, as well as its removable roof-like lid, is bisected and bordered by flamboyant vertical flanges; they mark the seams between mold sections. The vessel is further embellished by four thick, beam-like projections extending from its sides. These were likely pre-cast and inserted between the section molds before the complete container was cast. Although vessels with this distinctive decoration have been unearthed in regions traditionally controlled by Zhou dynasty rulers, who conquered their Shang predecessors in the 11th century BCE, mold fragments for similar projections were recently discovered at foundries in the last Shang capital, Anyang, in Henan province. The precise period assignment of this piece therefore remains slightly uncertain.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Large Covered Ritual Wine Container (Fangyi)
Work Type
late Shang or early Western Zhou period, 11th-early 10th 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
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Physical Descriptions

Cast bronze with greenish patina
H. 51 x W. 47.8 x D. 29.6 cm (20 1/16 x 18 13/16 x 11 5/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Private Collection (by 1944), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1944.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Anonymous gift
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Buddhist Art Dating from Shang Dynasty 1766 B.C. to Yuan Dynasty A.D. 1367, auct. cat., Yamanaka & Co. (New York, NY, October 1938), p. 50, no. 31
  • Chen Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu (A corpus of Chinese bronzes in American Collections), Kyuko Shoin (Tokyo, Japan, 1977), A 643
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 7, p. 17
  • Jessica Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Volume IIB), Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, Mass., 1990), p. 247, fig. 8.3

Exhibition History

  • S427: Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Jades, 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

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

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