- Museum number
Bronze vessel of the type called hu. The wine vessel, covered by a bright grey-green patina and heavily repaired, is decorated in four registers. The prominent register on the belly consists of a large taotie with enormous eyes, both at the front and the back, the body of which is clearly discernible against the dense background of spirals and quills (called leiwen; decoration in Style IV). Creatures with similarly discernible bodies centred on eyes can be seen on the bottom-most register on the slightly outward sloping foot-ring consisting of a narrow band bordered by two bands of circles. The creatures in the two top registers have long bodies and trunk-like noses. The background leiwen intaglio lines are filled with a black substance emphasising the contrasts in the decoration. A lid, which is now lost, would have been attached to the body through the two lugs.
- Production date
- 12thC BC (circa)
Height: 29.80 centimetres
Width: 23.50 centimetres
Depth: 14.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Like the previous vessel, this wine container is paralleled in earlier ceramics. Several examples decorated with narrow horizontal bands have been found at Zhengzhou. Although bronze Erligang-period hu have not yet coem to light, a you vessel of related form has been found.
While the vessel's shape harks back to the Erligang period, both the inscription, which consists of a pictograph of a hand holding a staff above a boat, and the background to the motifs of tight spirals (leiwen) and quills belong to the Anyang period. The principle motif is a large taotie, appearing once on the front and once on the back of the vessel. It has enormous compelling eyes. Horizontal bands and quills lying either side of the eyes now read as a body, repeated twice for reasons of symmetry.
Two different types of dragons fill the naroow borders. Creatures lying between the lugs are derived from single-eyed profile monsters on either side of taotie on Erligang and transitional bronzes. From such sources come their overlarge eyes, long trunks and profusion of quills. The small dragons in the next register are altogether more credible. This sort of dragon was composed by combining the beaked heads of Erligang-period creatures with simple bodies and claws borrowed from Anyang taotie. Neither dragon, however, resembles the long, known from oracle-bone script and depicted on no. 29.
The vessel has a bright grey-green patina and is quite heavily repaired. The background leiwen and intaglio lines on the motifs are filled with a black substance that gives the bronze a much darker tone in these areas.
Michaelson and Portal 2006:
Bronze hu, Shang dynasty (c. 1500 - c.1050 BC)
The Bronze Age in China began around 1700 BC, and many of the early bronze shapes were similar to contemporary ceramics. This hu is a wine vessel which would have been used for sacrificial rites dedicated to the ancestors. If there is an inscription on the early bronzes, as there is on this one, it is generally short. The inscription consists of a pictograph of a hand holding a staff above a boat.The background motifs of tight spirals (leiwen) and quills belong to the late Shang period of about 1200 BC.
The principle motif on this hu is the mask-like feature referred to as a taotie, meaning monster or a glutton, although this term was not used until many centuries later. The taotie appears once on the front and once on the back of the vessel and has enormous compelling eyes. Horizontal bands and quills lying either side of the eyes now read as body, repeated twice for reasons of symmetry. It is possible to see quite clearly the monster's nostrils as well as its bottle-horns, fangs and mouth.
- On display (G33/dc3b/s2)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Ex - Luboshez Collection
- Registration number