The distinct guang, or gong, ritual bronze vessel shape became important by the late Shang period. The interest in representing fantastic animal forms in three dimensions on this handled, spouted vessel with a rectangular cross section, spurred flanges, cover, and a sloping foot reflects a late developmental stage of guang vessels in the early Western Zhou. The front of the lid has a bottle-horned monster head with ears and a wide mouth lined with jagged teeth. At the rear of the lid is a second monster head with projecting dragon-curl horns that seems to be biting the upturned beak of a bird-like creature in its jaws. On the underside of the beak is the design of a small cicada in intaglio lines. A similar monster head forms the top of the rear handle. In its jaws can be seen the eyes and upturned beak of a bird creature whose neck, wings, and protruding claw and tail form the lower sections of the handle. The vessel body is divided into three tiers, each clearly separated by plain bands and divided into decorative compartments by vertical flanges with intaglio designs. Against a ground of leiwen square-spiral patterns, twenty-four, bird-like creatures with hooked plumes and curved open beaks adorn the compartments on the body and across each side of the cover. The prominent flanges at the corners and bisecting each side mark vertical joints between piece-moulds used to cast the vessel. Bronze spacers used in the casting process have been located in both the body and lid with the help of X-ray radiography, and thermoluminescence analysis of ceramic core material inside the handle is consistent with an early Western Zhou date. Remarkably free of casting defects, the surface reveals a brown-black patina. Identical inscriptions are cast on the inside bottom of the container and lid with a three character dedicatation to Wen Fu Ding followed by the xi zi sun glyph.
Although this vessel was once claimed to belong to the so-called Second Baoji Group of ritual bronzes said to come Baoji district in Shanxi province, its actual provenance is uncertain. The vessel or its inscription were first recorded in the late nineteenth century in Chinese sources, but soon entered a collection in Japan where it was acquired by Chester Dale Carter.
Published References & Reproductions
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