Chinese / Flask / Eastern Zhou period, 4th century BCEChinese
Eastern Zhou period, 4th century BCE

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Flask
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: -39
Creation End Date: -30
Creation Date: Eastern Zhou period, 4th century BCE
Creation Place: North China
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Vessels
Materials and Techniques: Bronze inlaid with copper
Dimensions: H. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm); W. 13 3/4 in. (34.9 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.104
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The description of the Shang (c. 1700-c. 1050 BCE) and Zhou (c. 1050-221 BCE) periods in Chinese history as a Great Bronze Age stems from both the astonishing variety of shapes and motifs found in their ritual vessels and the sheer technical complexity involved in producing them. The Zhou, one of a number of peoples who inhabited parts of northwest China, defeated the Shang and established a capital in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. This early part of the dynasty is known as the Western Zhou (c. 1050-771 BCE). Rivals ultimately forced the Zhou to move their base farther east to Luoyang in Henan Province. The second half of the period is called the Eastern Zhou (770-221 BCE), probably best known as the age of Confucius.

Bronze vessels were items of luxury and power throughout the entire Zhou period, and changes in the types and decoration of these vessels illustrate the many cultural and political shifts that characterize this long and complicated era of Chinese history. The experimentation with shapes and abstraction of designs seen in the latter part of the Western Zhou continues throughout the entire Eastern Zhou period. The shape of this canteen, now often called a "pilgrim's flask" (bian hu), became popular about 400 BCE. New methods were used to decorate this flask. The primary embellishment consists of square panels filled with an abstract interlaced design, a motif often called "hook and volute." These decorative panels were created using molds that were stamped rather than hand-carved. In addition, the raised areas between these panels and the triangular forms decorating the neck were inlaid with a reddish copper; the use of this inlay helps to date this vessel to the 4th century BCE. The use of copper inlay in this canteen heralds the importance of inlay as the primary decorative technique in Chinese bronzes made from the 5th through 3rd centuries BCE. Although this type of decoration differs from that found in earlier Chinese bronzes, the methods of manufacture remained unchanged. The bronzes were cast with depressions that were later inlaid with several materials: turquoise, copper, silver, or gold.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 51.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Chinese Works of Art (auction, London, May 6, 1967), lot 31.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.104
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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