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A rare archaic bronze wine container (fanglei)

A rare archaic bronze wine container (fanglei)
A rare archaic bronze wine container (fanglei)


Shang dynasty, 13th–11th century BC
Height: 15 1/2 in, 39.4 cm

Of rectangular section, the sides flare steeply from the concave base to a rounded shoulder, set on the short sides with two loop handles issuing from bovine masks, and terminate in an upright neck. The body is cast with eight pendent blades, each with a taotie mask above a cicada, and one possibly with a central raised mask, beneath a frieze of four taotie masks, divided by vertical flanges, against leiwen, and a narrow register of whorl bosses and dragons. The shoulder is similarly decorated with four pairs of confronting dragons against leiwen, those on the long sides divided by bovine masks in high relief and those on the shorter sides by the handles. Four pairs of confronting dragons, each pair separated by a vertical flange, decorate the neck. There is a pictogram of a chariot and charioteers (probably a clan name) on the interior of the neck.

Formerly in the collection of a Japanese museum, and acquired before the 1960s.

For very similar examples with covers, see Juliano, Bronze, Clay and Stone: Chinese Art in the C. C. Wang Family Collection, no. 2; and Mizuno, Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China, pls. 62 and 63, in the collection of the Nezu Art Museum, Tokyo, also illustrated in Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935–6, no. 240.

For related examples, see Institute of Archaeology, CASS, Tomb of Lady Hao at Yinxu in Anyang, pl. 32, figs. 1 and 2; Lawton, “An Imperial Legacy Revisited: Bronze Vessels from the Qing Palace Collection”, figs. cc and dd, p. 77; and Li, The Shaanxi Bronzes, no. 175, p. 215, excavated in 1977 at Sucun village, Chenggu county, and one now in the collection of the Chenggu County Museum and the other in that of the Yangxian County Museum.