Height: 20.300 cm
Gift of P.T. Brooke Sewell
Asia OA 1954.5-11.1
Room 33: Asia
Bronze ding (ritual food vessel)
Shang dynasty, 12th-11th century BC
An ancient ritual food vessel
Bronze vessels were first cast in China during the Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 BC). Their purpose was ceremonial, rather than secular. Sets of vessels would be buried with their owners, for offering food and wine to the ancestors.
There was a large range of vessel shapes. This food vessel, with two handles and three round legs, is known as a ding. A short inscription names the maker or owner. There are two main registers of decoration. The main part is covered with squares, each studded in the centre. The top register shows a taotie, or monster-like mask. The taotie design evolved from this ribbon-like form to more elaborate styles over the centuries. Its full significance is still unknown.
This ding illustrates the mould sections required for casting a bronze vessel. The mould consists of three principal outer sections and a piece for the base, a core for the inside, three cores for the legs, a section between them, and a lid and base to contain the hot metal when poured.
J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)
J. Rawson, Chinese bronzes: art and ritua (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)