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Gallery Text

The move of the Zhou capital eastward in the wake of nomadic invasions marked a diminution of Zhou authority and the rise in power of surrounding states. Although in the earlier Western Zhou period, bronze was employed primarily for ritual vessels, weapons, and tools, during the Eastern Zhou era, it began to be used to make mirrors, bells, and chariot fittings as well. Bronze mirrors were polished smooth on their reflective sides, and their backs were intricately decorated with auspicious symbols or cosmological designs. Their reflectivity was believed to create light in a darkened tomb and to ward off evil. Chariots were vital for military warfare, and those of the powerful were fitted with ornate finials and attachments, which during the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) were often inlaid with precious stones and metals. This technique was also employed with greater frequency in the casting of bronze vessels, revealing yet another shift in the function of such objects, from commemorative status symbols to more decorative vestiges of a ritual tradition.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
'He' Ritual Wine Vessel in the Form of a Standing Duck
Work Type
probably 5th century BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Zhou dynasty, Warring States period, 475-221 BCE
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast bronze with gray-green patina
H. 20.5 x W. 17 x L. 30.8 cm (8 1/16 x 6 11/16 x 12 1/8 in.)
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

Sueji Umehara, Shina-Kodo Seikwa (Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Europe and America), Yamanaka & Co. (Osaka, Japan, 1933), part 1, vol. 3, no. 193

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. 51, no. 41

Rong Geng [Jung Keng], Shang Zhou Yiqi Tongkao (The Bronzes of Shang and Chou), Harvard-Yenching Institute (Beijing, 1941), vol. 2, p. 368, no. 694

Chen Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu (A corpus of Chinese bronzes in American Collections), Kyuko Shoin (Tokyo, Japan, 1977), vol. 1, p. 128, A 679; vol. 2, p. 982, A 679 (ill.)

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

Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/07/2018 - 01/06/2019

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

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