Height: 23.200 cm
Asia OA 1983.4-20.1
Room 33: Asia
Bronze you inlaid with gold and silver
Qing dynasty, 18th century AD
Copying an ancient model
Bronze vessels were first cast in about 1600 BC. They were used ceremonially, to offer food and wine to ancestors. Sets of bronze vessels were buried with their owners. Kings and their consorts had more elaborate sets of vessels than important nobles, who had richer sets than lesser nobles, and so on down the social scale. Many different vessel shapes have been found in tombs and hoards, which allows us to study their historical and stylistic developments.
The you was a ritual wine vessel in use from the Shang dynasty (1500-1050 BC) to the middle of the Western Zhou dynasty (1050-771 BC). This example is an archaistic one, made during the Qing dynasty (AD 1644-1911), that was intended as a faithful copy of a much older you of the Western Zhou.
Copies were made to show respect for past traditions, but in this case, the use of inlay is anachronistic. Its bold decoration with gold and silver inlay was not used on bronzes until the Eastern Zhou (771-221 BC), and not on vessels of this form.
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)