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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
1943.52.95
Title
'You' Covered Ritual Wine Vessel with Elephant and 'Taotie' Decor and with Ram-Head Bail Handle
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Shi Shang you
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
late 11th-early 10th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Period
Zhou dynasty, Western Zhou period, c. 1050-771 BCE
Culture
Chinese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/203983
Location
Level 1, Room 1600, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Bronze Age to the Golden Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Cast bronze with greenish patina; with dedicatory inscription by Servitor Chen inscribed on both the vessel floor and lid interior
Dimensions
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.
Provenance
[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
1943
Object Number
1943.52.95
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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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, 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

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu