Chinese Zhou ritual vessel (gui)

China, early Western Zhou dynasty, 11th century BC

A gui was a ritual vessel for food offerings, used in the Shang and throughout the Zhou period in China.

In 1050 BC, King Wu established the Zhou dynasty, having conquered the Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 BC). Long inscriptions in bronze vessels tell of this conquest and subsequent events.

Such long inscriptions were cast only occasionally in bronzes during the Shang period, but this practice was greatly expanded by the Zhou. Inscriptions cast in bronzes served to communicate the political and social achievements of the vessels' owners. Today, they are vital historical documents.

The inscription inside this imposing vessel tells that King Wu's brother, Kang Hou (Duke of Kang) and Mei Situ were given territory in Wei (in Henan province) in recognition of their contributions. The inscription relates a rebellion by remnants of the Shang, and its successful defeat by the Zhou, which helps us to date it.

Ancient China


The period we know of as ancient China runs from around 10,000 BC to about 221 BC.

Ancient China world culture

Western Zhou dynasty

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More information


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)


Height: 23 cm
Width: 42 cm
Depth: 26.8 cm


Museum number

Asia OA 1977.4-4.1



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Chinese Zhou
ritual vessel

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