- Museum number
Bronze vessel of the type called he. It has four cylindrical legs above a lobed body of four sections. Each lobe is decorated with a taotie's head bearing ram's horns in relief. The horns are neatly flattened against the vessel's sides. The same taotie appear on the lid. The band around the neck has a decoration of dragon-like creatures in low relief. A ram's head sits on top of the handle.
- Production date
- 1200BC-1050BC (circa)
Height: 22.90 centimetres
Width: 11.80 centimetres (at lip)
- Curator's comments
Lobed ceramic wine vessels, later known as he, regularly occur in Erlitou-period burials with bronze jue and jia. It is possible that even at this early stage ceramic he were paralleled by bronze vessels, but that the bronze ones were too precious to bury. Bronze he are known from the Erligang period; rare examples also occur in early Anyang, as in Fu Hao's tomb. At that date egg-shaped vessels on three cylindrical legs were also made.
The British Museum's he has four cylindrical legs above a lobed body of four sections. Each lobe is decorated with a taotie's head bearing ram's horns in relief. The horns are neatly flattened against the vessel's sides, as on a rectangular hu from Fu Hao's tomb (Fig. 7), but the vessel is probably somewhat later in date. The pictograph on vessel and lid has not been deciphered; it occurs on a number of other vessels.
'He' are ritual vessels for holding water. In Shang and early Western Zhou times the 'he' was used to dilute wine and was therefore classed with wine vessels. During the Western Zhou its function was changed to hold water for ablutions in conjuction with the 'pan'.
Group of bronzes found in graves demonstrate that sets, which included a large number of shapes, were used. There were as many as twenty different types, although only a much smaller number was essential. A group of vessels of the types most commonly found in Shang tombs was recovered from a single tomb of a high-ranking Shang noble, the tomb known as Tomb 18 at Anyang Xiaotun. Wine vessels, such as this one, dominated the sets, in numbers, complexity of shape and elaboration of decoration. Food containers were less complicated and only in the Western Zhou did they come to be pre-eminent in the ritual vessel set. As a group, bronze ritual vessels would have created a striking visual effect. Golden in colour when first made, they would rapidly have turned black in the humid summer climate of north-central China.
- On display (G33/dc3b/s1)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number