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Chinese Bronzes of the Shang and Zhou Periods
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Food Vessel: Gui
North China; Western Zhou period (1050-770 B.C.E.), about late 11th - early 10th century B.C.E.
H. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm); W. 12 1/4 in. (31.1 cm)across handles
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
Deep basins with prominent handles known as gui became popular at the beginning of Western Zhou period. Gui were used for offering food, most probably grain, and their rise reflects the beginning of a shift from wine to food vessels. The motifs, including the mask which dominates the vessel and the small dragons and whorls which fill the bands at neck and foot, represent continuity with the Shang style, although the fine spirals which usually fill the background of Shang vessels have been dispensed with, presumably to economize on the labor and cost. The handles are adorned with what appears to be a deer head, below which is a stylized bird wing and claw. The small head in relief at the center of the neck band is slightly skewed as a result of the incorrect alignment of the molds during casting. The interior of the vessel bears an inscription, zuo baoyi ("commissioned this precious vessel"). Such inscriptions served to declare the value attached to vessels by their owners.
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