An archaic bronze bell (nao)

Archaic bronze bell
Archaic bronze bell


Late Shang dynasty
Height: 6 3/4 in, 17.2 cm

supported on an upright, slightly spreading shank of circular section, the bell has an elliptical form. Each face is cast with a monster mask beneath a square raised striking zone at the centre of the rim. The surface bears extensive original encrustation.

For a set of three nao bells with very similar decoration, excavated in 1983, see Yinxu xinchutu qingtongqi (Ritual Bronzes Recently Excavated in Yinxu) (Kunming, 2008), nos. 34 and 35, pp. 110–13. Note another set of three in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji (Beijing, 1997), Vol. 3, no. 182, p. 182, now in the collection of the Museum of Chinese History in Beijing.

For a set of three similar bells with buffalo-head decoration, see Institute of Archaeology, CASS, Bronze Vessels from Yinxu (Beijing, 1985), pl. 218; and for a single example decorated with a buffalo head, see Li Xueqin, The Glorious Traditions of Chinese Bronzes (Singapore, 2000), no. 22, pp. 82–3.