Guang Vessel

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

Xu Tongbai 徐同柏, Cong Gu Tang kuan zhi xue 從古堂款識學 (Tongwen shuju, 1886), 11.9.

Fang Zhongyi, Zhoyizhai zhi kaoshi (1894), vol. 7, p. 3 (inscription).

Wu Shifen 吳式芬, Jun gu lu jinwen 攈古錄金文 (N.p. 1895), vol. 1.3, p. 62a (inscription). Wu Dacheng 吳大澂, Ke Zhai ji gu lu 愙齋集古錄 (N.p. 1918), 13.21b.

Fujita Danshaku-ke zōhin nyūsatsu mokuroku 藤田男爵家藏品入札目錄 (Osaka: 1929), pl. 233.

Fang Junyi 方濬益, Zhui Yi Zhai yiqi kuanshi kaoshi 綴遺齋彞器款識考釋 (N.p. 1935), 14.2.

Kezhai zhi gu lu, vol. 13, p. 21 (inscription).

Liu Tizhi 劉體智, Xiaojiao jingge jinwen taben 小校經閣金文拓本 (1935), vo. 5, p. 14.1-2 (inscription).

Wang Chen 王辰, Xu Yin wen cun 續殷文存 (N.p. 1935), 1.56.6-7.

Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉, Sandai jijin wen cun 三代吉金文寸 (N.p. 1937), 11.14.5-6.

Umehara Sueji 梅原末治, Nihon shūcho Shina kodō seika 6 vols. (Osaka: Yamanaka & Co., 1959-64), 3.263.

Umehara Sueji 梅原末治, "Sensei-shō Hōkeiken shutsudo no dai ni no henkin" (The Second Set of Ritual Vessels, Pien-chin, from Baoji Xian, Shaanxi Province), in Tōhōgaku kyō 1 (1959), p. 8, fig. 2.

The Connoisseur in America (May 1965).

Roderick Whitfield, "The Carter Collection," Princeton Alumni Weekly 65, no. 18 (1965), p. 11.

"Arts of Asia Recently Acquired by American Museums 1965," Archives of Asian Art 20 (1966-67), p. 101, fig. 45.

Robert Hans van Gulik, The Gibbon in China (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967), p. 17a.

Max Loehr, Ritual Vessels of Bronze Age China (New York: The Asia Society,1968), pp. 116-117, no. 50.

William Watson, "The Five Stages of Shang" (review of Asia Society exhibit), Art News 67, no. 7 (November, 1968), p. 46, fig. 11.

Emma Bunker, "Ritual Vessels of Bronze Age China" (review of Asia Society exhibit), Oriental Art 15 (summer 1969), pl. 13.

Zhou Fagao 周法高, Zhang Risheng 張日昇, Huang Qiiuyue 黃秋月, Sandai jijin wen cun ahulu biao 三代吉金文存著錄表 (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1977), nos. 2246, 2247

Suefusa Yumiko, "In Shū seidō iki no bi—jikō no kikei to sōshoku," Kobijutsu 55 (March 1978), no. 31

Noel Barnard and Cheung Kwong-yue, Rubbings and Hand Copies of Bronze Inscriptions in Chinese, Japanese, European, American, and Australian Collections (Taibei: Yiwen chubanshe, 1978), no. 1150

E. Von Erdberg, Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Chester Dale and Dolly Carter (Ascona: Artibus Asiae, 1978), cat. no. 42, pp. 66-69.

Sun Zhichu 孫稚雛, Jinwen zhulu jian mu 金文著錄簡目 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), nos. 4244, 4245.

Dawn Ho Delbanco, Art from Ritual: Ancient Chinese Bronze Vessels from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection (Cambridge and Washington: The Fogg Art Museum and The Arthur M. Sackler Foundatioin, 1983), no. 32.

Pieter Meyers and Lore L. Holmes, "Technical Studies of Ancient Chinese Bronzes: Some Observations," in George Kuwayama, ed., The Great Bronze Age of China, A Symposium (LA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1983), p. 135.

Selections from The Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1986), p. 194.

Jessica Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, 2 vols. (Wash. D.C., 1990), no. 117, pp. 692-701.

Michèle Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens, ed., La Cina (Torino: UTET, 1996), pp. 64-65.