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A blue-green cast bronze vessel that has a wide, stout foot, a stout body, a large spout that has the head of a wide-mouthed tiger on top, and is covered in fine inscribed swirling lines.

A blue-green cast bronze vessel that stands with the spout facing the viewer’s right. It has a wide, stout foot and a stout body. It has a large spout that has the head of a wide-mouthed tiger on top of the lid. The face of the tiger is colored white. The lid covers the whole spout and body and has some protruding forms along the left. Below is the curved handle that is short and thick. The entire piece is covered in fine inscribed swirling lines and has protruding lines along the front and back edges.

Gallery Text

Although there are no contemporaneous records explaining the meaning of the decorations on Shang bronzes, the preponderance of zoomorphic motifs and the emergence of animal-shaped vessels made of bronze or jade are clear indications of the importance of animals in the repertoire of Shang artisans. The principle Shang motif was the animal mask, referred to in later texts as a taotie. This enigmatic image (seen repeatedly on vessels in the adjacent cases) is not identifiable as any one beast but appears to be a composite of creatures both real and imagined, with two stark eyes, horns, ears, and fangs. During the late Shang period (14th–11th century BCE), animal-shaped vessels began to be cast, perhaps in response to zoomorphic bronzes introduced from southern China. The guang wine vessel displayed here is a magnificent example — it cleverly incorporates a tiger at the front of the vessel and an owl at the back handle; the animals’ heads are represented on the lid and their more subtly rendered bodies are on the vessel.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
'Gong' Covered Ritual Wine Vessel with Tiger and Owl Decor
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 觥
Alternate Title: 'guang'
Work Type
13th century BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Shang dynasty, c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
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Physical Descriptions

Cast bronze with pale green patina
H. 25.0 x W. 31.5 x D. 10.6 cm (9 13/16 x 12 3/8 x 4 3/16 in.)
Weight 1020.58 g
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: two ideographs cast on vessel floor


Recorded Ownership History
Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (by 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

  • Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), no. 035, pp. 30-31
  • Takayasu Higuchi, ed., Chugoku bijutsu, dai 4-kan (Chinese Art in Western Collections vol. 4: Bronze and Jade), Kodansha (Tokyo, Japan, 1973), pl. 24
  • Chen Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu (A corpus of Chinese bronzes in American Collections), Kyuko Shoin (Tokyo, Japan, 1977), A 651
  • Yumiko Suefusa, "In Shū seidō iki no bi—jikō no kikei to sōshoku" ["Yin and Chou Bronzes with Special Reference to Ssü-kuang Type Receptacles"], Kobijutsu, No. 55, pp. 29-61, March 1978, no. 2
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 5, p. 15
  • Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, Mass., 1987), p. 113, fig. 150; p. 370, fig. 63.2; p. 414, fig. 73.2
  • James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 52-53
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 3
  • Daniel Shapiro and Robert D. Mowry, Ancient Chinese Bronzes: a Personal Appreciation, Sylph Editions (London, 2013), pp. 119, 120, fig. 2.

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: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project

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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