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Bronze sacrificial vessel
300
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This vessel is a masterpiece because of its exceptional beauty and symbolic importance in sacrificial ceremonies.

History of the Object
Some 30 different types of bronze sacrificial vessels are known from China's bronze age. Most of them were developed from clay and thus spring from Stone Age traditions. They were used in the important, regularly-performed sacrifices made to ancestral spirits in family temples. Through offerings, living members of a large family were able to come into contact with the spirits of their ancestors, who after being lavishly provided for, were supposed to support their descendants, sending them good harvests, wealth and abundant offspring. Quite naturally, the vessels used for sacrificial ceremonies had to be beautiful and specific decorations endowed them with magic powers. This vessel is a tripod on solid legs with two vertical handles. Decoration in high relief covers most of the vessel. At the top, there is a border depicting three pairs of confronted dragons with 't´ao-t´ieh' masks between them. These types of masks probably go back to a dance mask used by rainmakers or shamans at special rites held to invoke rain. It is unknown how the dragon originated in Chinese art. It is possibly that it started with the alligator, which is a water animal. For thousands of years the dragon has been a symbol of life-giving rain. The dragons have beaks, C-horns and long bodies with coiled tails. Their front legs and wings have pointed tips. The dragons are separated by six flanges, three of them forming the bridges of the monster´s noses. Below the dragon border are triangles with cicadas. Cicadas symbolize resurrection. The animal figures stand out against a geometrical background of square spirals, i.e. the 'leiwen' or thunder and cloud pattern. The dark filling is in the geometrical design. There is a thick patina in green, blue and rust with textile impressions in some places.

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Type
Archaeological 
Materials
bronze 
Measurements
215 x 179 mm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
BCE 16th century ~ BCE 16th century 
Creation date
BCE 16th Century- 11th Century; ca 1500-1028 BC; Late Shang Dynasty 
Function
'Ting', sacrificial vessel for cooking meat 
Acquisition
The vessel was acquired in 1963 from C.T. Loo & Cie, Paris, France 
Copyright
Photo: The Didrichsen Museum of Art and Culture archives. Photographer - Jussi Pakkala. 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
The Didrichsen Museum of Art and Culture 
Museum
Didrichsen Art Museum 
Credit line
The Didrichsen Museum of Art and Culture 

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