Wine container (Hu)

Period: Eastern Zhou dynasty, Spring and Autumn period (770–476 B.C.)

Date: early 5th century B.C.

Culture: China

Medium: Bronze inlaid with copper

Dimensions: H. 15 3/8 in. (39.1 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.46a, b


This wine container is representative of Chinese ritual vessels in the late sixth to early fifth century B.C., a critical period in the development of the art of bronze casting in the late Bronze Age in China. The surface decoration, an intricate pattern composed of animal masks and interlacing bands ending in dragon heads and feathered tails, makes use of motifs from earlier periods but in a manner that suggests a geometric arrangement. The three recumbent animals on the lid show the early influence of "animal style" art, a result of contacts with nomadic cultures of North and Central Asia. Although the surface decoration was executed entirely in the mold—the traditional method of metalworking in China—the introduction of the dentate copper molding, cast in at the mouth of the vessel, heralds the beginning of a new style and technique of metalworking that was introduced into China from the West at this time. After this period, the use of metals other than bronze (copper, silver, and gold) as part of the decoration became more common.

A portion of the surface of this bronze has been preserved in its original state, retaining its golden metallic sheen.