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Bronze zun
1936,1118.1
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The rams, with their freely curving horns, are more lifelike and convincing than the taotie, or monster faces, which decorated most ancient Chinese vessels. The horns were probably cast first and then inserted into the moulds used for casting the rest of the vessel. The taotie seems to have been less important in southern China and perhaps less well understood than at Anyang (the major centre of the Shang dynasty from about 1300 BC, in Henan province, northern China). There is a taotie on this zun, below the lip of the container. Its eyes are clear, but its other features are just a maze of lines.

History of the Object
This bronze ritual wine vessel (zun) takes the form of a pair of rams supporting a jar. Southern China borrowed the Shang-dynasty form of bronze casting and also the practice of making wine vessels. However, the forms and styles of decoration were often quite distinct from the metropolitan types, and realistic creatures such as these are an example of provincial tastes and skills.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Bronze 
Measurements
Height 43.2 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Possibly from Hunan province, southern China 
Geography
China 
Time period
BCE 13th century ~ BCE 12th century 
Creation date
BCE; 13th Century BCE - 12th Century BCE; Shang dynasty 
Function
Ritual wine vessel 
Acquisition
Purchased from George Eumorfopoulos in 1936. 
Copyright
Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum 
Acknowledgements
J. Rawson, Chinese Bronzes: Art and Ritual (British Museum Press, 1987) 
Owner
British Museum 
Museum
British Museum 
Credit line
 

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