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Chinese Bronzes of the Shang and Zhou Periods
Han Dynasty Bronzes
Early Chinese Ceramics
Sculpture from Tombs
Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
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Landscape Painting in China
Jade and Lacquer in China
Wine Vessel: Zun
North China; Shang period (c.1600-1050 B.C.E.), 13th - 11th century B.C.E.
H. 13 in. (33 cm); D. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm)
Estate of Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller
Wine vessels such as this zun beaker played an important role in the ritual offerings to the ancestors and other deities worshipped by the ruling elite of the Shang dynasty (ca.1600 - ca. 1050 B.C.E.). Often up to seventy percent of the ritual vessels found in large tombs were wine vessels. The tall flaring mouth and foot (the base of the container is located above the cruciform opening) and prominent flanges accentuate the elegant profile of the piece. The vessels are often lavishly decorated in high relief with striking mask designs. On this piece the masks on the foot and belly consist of a pair of eyes flanked by ears, a bovine snout and upper jaw divided by the vertical flanges, and a pair of C-shaped horns above. This mask is conventionally termed a taotie, a reference to an ogre mentioned in a text of the 4th century B.C.E., but it is not known what significance it held. In the narrow band at the neck, two confronted small dragons are placed either side of the flange. The background decoration consists of fine spirals known as leiwen or thunder pattern.
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