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Pale green cup with lid with gold decoration

This short cylindrical cup has three small feet and a round handle. It is translucent pale green with pink veining. The cup’s surface has a nubby texture of small, evenly spaced carved squares. A matching jade lid sits atop the cup. A golden ring circles the lid. It has carved animal-shaped decorations resembling cats and birds. The center of the lid and side of the cup each have jade rings attached to them.

Gallery Text

As its name implies, the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) was an era during which various states that were ruled by powerful clans competed for supremacy in China. The high demand for luxury goods to furnish the tombs of wealthy nobles enabled numerous artistic traditions to flourish, resulting in an array of ornate artifacts from this period and the subsequent Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). Bronze vessels continued to be commissioned by the ruling elite during both eras, but the addition of gold and intricate openwork designs (here seen on the gilt bronze pedestaled dou and the small openwork pou vessels) transformed this previously austere tradition into a more decorative artistic craft. Jade containers made in shapes traditionally used for bronze or lacquer vessels (such as the three exhibited here) were the epitome of ostentation, as there was no better way to demonstrate wealth than to reproduce a luxury item in a more expensive medium.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Covered Jade Cup with Gilt Bronze Fitting Decorated with Three Felines and Three Crested Birds
Work Type
2nd-1st centuries BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Han dynasty, Western Han period, 206 BCE-9 CE
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

Translucent pale green nephrite with brown veins and slightly calcified, bone-colored patches; gilt bronze rim
H. 7.7 x Diam. 11.2 cm (3 1/16 x 4 7/16 in.)
Weight 543 g


Recorded Ownership History
[C. T. Loo & Co., New York, January 23, 1933] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1933-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

Published Text

Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald Huber
Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1975)

Catalogue entry no. 521 by Max Loehr:

521 Pyxis
Translucent light green jade, with brown veins and slightly calcified, bone-colored patches. The vessel is cylindrical and fairly thin-walled. It stands on three short feet and is provided with an elegantly recurved annular handle. Opposite this handle is a ring suspended from a loop that is set into an animal mask on the side of the vessel. The surface of the wall is decorated with a meticulously carved pattern of small squarish knobs arranged in two zones, which are separated by a plain concave band. A net of engraved lines connects these knobs vertically, sideways, and diagonally. On the inside of the bottom is an incised medallion composed of a tripartite whorl turning left, the petals of a quatrefoil in tangential position, and a quadripartite whorl turning right around the petals. The same medallion appears in smaller scale on the outside of the bottom, where it is surrounded by a “cloud scroll” of curlicues and hooks connected by sweeping, overlapping curvilinear bands. A remarkable quality of this scroll design is the absence of symmetry and repetition.

The lid, which is convex, is decorated on its upper face with a narrow zone of discontinuous curvilinear motifs, within which are situated three distinct, simple mountain forms, and with a simple quatrefoil design in the center. The décor zones are framed and divided by two concentric, plain concave bands. Attached to the center of the lid by means of an ingenious device is a small fluted jade ring. It is held in place by a moveable loop with a shank that passes through an oval hole pierced through the lid just off center. In turn, This shank is engaged below the lid by a plano-convex button with an oval hole to receive the ends of the shank. Small perforations through the button and the shank allow a splint to pass through them, connecting them in such a manner that the splint would be barely visible.

The lid is inserted into a rather heavy, gilt bronze ring. On the upper side, the ring is modeled in high relief configurations, showing three felines in varying postures moving in a terrain suggested by curved bands. Between the three sectors allotted to felines are rectangular slots into which are inserted three standing bird figures, superb creatures with tall necks, crested heads, nicely modeled wings, soaring plumes, and crisply curved tails. End of Eastern Chou or Western Han.

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

  • Takayasu Higuchi, ed., Chugoku bijutsu, dai 4-kan (Chinese Art in Western Collections vol. 4: Bronze and Jade), Kodansha (Tokyo, Japan, 1973), pl. 106
  • Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald Huber, Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1975), cat. no. 521, p. 352-3

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

  • Collection Highlights
  • 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