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A gray cast bronze vessel with a lid and a middle handle on top of it. It is smaller at the top and wider at the bottom with a thick foot. It is inscribed with detailed, swirling designs all over. The ends of the handle have ram heads coming out.

A gray cast bronze vessel with some green coloring in spots stands upright on a grey background. It has a round lid and a middle handle that curves upright over it. The handle ends face the left and right. It is smaller at the top and curves wider at the bottom with a thick foot that flares slightly out. The entire piece is inscribed with detailed, swirling designs, some inscriptions are wide swirls with many tiny spirals in between them. The sides along and perpendicular to the handle have protruding thin, cut-out pieces that go along to the top and over the lid. The ends of the handle have ram heads coming out and the lid has a small, cup-like shape on the very top.

Gallery Text

Like their Shang predecessors, the Zhou produced sets of bronze ritual vessels for use in state rites and burial in tombs. In style, form, and function, the earliest bronze vessels from the Western Zhou period were virtually indistinguishable from those made by the Shang, for the Zhou sought to legitimize their ascension over their defeated rivals by closely replicating the tangible symbols of Shang power. Before long, however, traditional Shang decorative motifs such as the taotie animal mask began to evolve, and new forms emerged, such as the confronting dragons on the inscribed gui food vessel (far right) or the elephants on the covered you wine vessel (near left) displayed here. Inscriptions on these objects expanded, from single clan marks to longer memorializing inscriptions, signaling a shift in the function of bronze vessels from purely sacred objects belonging to powerful Shang clan members, to status symbols commemorating the accomplishments of Zhou kings and nobles.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
'You' Covered Ritual Wine Vessel with Elephant and 'Taotie' Decor and with Ram-Head Bail Handle
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Shi Shang you
Work Type
late 11th-early 10th century BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Zhou dynasty, Western Zhou period, c. 1050-771 BCE
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

Cast bronze with greenish patina; with dedicatory inscription by Servitor Chen inscribed on both the vessel floor and lid interior
H. 26.9 x W. 25.5 x D. 19.3 cm (10 9/16 x 10 1/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: matching dedicatory inscriptions integrally cast on both the vessel floor and lid interior; each translates: It was in the year when the King after making offerings at the great Yue ritual in Zongzhou, took residence in Pangjing, in the fifth month, in the third quarter, on the xinyou day; then the King ordered the Shi Shang officials and the archivist Yin to return to Chengzhou to entertain the officials with meat from suckling pigs and to present them with tankards of spiced wine and cowries. For this reason I had this precious vessel made for Father Gui. Recorded by Servitor Chen.


Recorded Ownership History
[Yamanaka & Co., New York, June 29, 1936] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1936-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art


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Publication History

  • Chen Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu (A corpus of Chinese bronzes in American Collections), Kyuko Shoin (Tokyo, Japan, 1977), A 630
  • Jessica Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Volume IIA), Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 65, fig. 83

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: 1600 Early China II, 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