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A highly religious and ritualistic society, the Shang established their dynastic kingdom in northern China around 1600 BCE. Their king served as the intermediary between his subjects, a powerful god known as Shang Di, and deceased ancestors that the Shang believed could intercede on their behalf. The extraordinary emphasis placed on ancestor worship and state ritual during the Shang dynasty necessitated the production of massive numbers of bronze vessels and ceremonial weapons. Specific types of bronze vessels for cooking, warming, or serving sacrificial offerings of food and wine were required for ceremonies designed to feed and appease ancestral spirits. Like their ceramic prototypes, bronze legged vessels could be placed over a fire for heating. Covered vessels protected their contents from spills or contamination. Ceremonial weaponry, such as the jade blades with turquoise-inlaid bronze hafts displayed here, were an important part of state regalia, as Shang rulers owed their domination over neighboring societies to their military prowess. Ritual bronzes and weapons were essential burial objects, for they represented the power and authority that the deceased intended to take with him into the afterlife.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.52.118
Title
'Jia' Ritual Wine Vessel with a Decorative Band of Dragons against a Leiwen Background
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
14th-11th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Period
Shang dynasty, c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE
Culture
Chinese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/203994
Location
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
Medium
Cast bronze with greenish patina; with inscription cast on the interior
Dimensions
H. 25.7 x W. 19.0 x Diam. 15.4 cm (10 1/8 x 7 1/2 x 6 1/16 in.)
Weight 2523.11 g
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: single ideograph integrally cast on vessel floor
Provenance
[Yamanaka & Co., New York, January 28, 1941] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1941-1943), 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
1943.52.118
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 303

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

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