Archaic Inlaid Bronze Wine Vessel Hu

Archaic Inlaid Bronze Wine Vessel Hu

Eastern Zhou Dynasty, ca. 5th century BCE
Height: 12 3/4 inches (32.4 cm)

The sloping shoulders of the wine vessel bulge slightly, then taper down to a wide base and a high straight foot while the neck flares out slightly and is surmounted by a removable cover. The cover has three stylized protrusions, which can support the cover if it is placed upside-down. All of the décor on the vessel is inlaid in gold. The pictorial scenes decorating the vessel are in two zones separated by bands of thin S-shaped volute patterns. Two more bands of volute patterns ring the neck and foot of the vessel. Around the neck, triangular pendants decorated with scroll designs hang from the band. The cover is decorated with scenes of figures harvesting mulberry trees.

The top register of the body shows figures playing instruments, hunting, as well as preparing food, with an image of two hu vessels being filled, most likely, with wine. The scenes appear almost identically on each side of the vessel. The figures playing music do so on bronze bells and jade chimes typical of the time period. The sets of bells and chimes are supported by bird-shaped stands. The bottom register shows battle scenes on land and on water. Men are shown lifting and thrusting spears standing on diagonal lines indicating perhaps mountainous landscape. Many of the figures in the boats also brandish spears, while others are rowing. Under the boats,
the water is signified by fish, a few figures are also shown swimming.


A set of chimes on a similar bird-shaped stand was excavated at the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng, in Hubei Province, see DeWoskin, 1990, fig. 10.

A wine vessel with similar décor is in the Sichuan Provincial Museum, see Wen, 1980, no. 91, which is dated to the Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BCE). The sloped shoulder and straight foot with a bulbous body of the present hu seems to be another shape of hu contemporary with the Sichuan Hu. Many hu of differing shapes were manufactured from the 6th to the 4th centuries BCE such as no. 44, late 6th /early 5th century BCE, from the Sackler Collections; fig. 44.1 from the Royal Ontario Museum, of similar date; and no. 49 also from the Sackler Collections. 4th/3rd century BCE; all illustrated in So, 1995.

Scholarly Discussions

See Professor Richard Poor's essay "The Spirit of Wu", pp. 10-12 and Ark Restoration & Design Ltd.'s conservation report on pp. 13-14.