Chinese / Water Basin: Pan / possibly 20th centuryChinese
Water Basin: Pan
possibly 20th century

View Larger Image

View Full Catalog Record Below

This image is one of over 108,000 from the AMICA Library (formerly The Art Museum Image Consortium Library- The AMICO Library™), a growing online collection of high-quality, digital art images from over 20 museums around the world. offers subscriptions to this collection, the finest art image database available on the internet. EVERY image has full curatorial text and can be studied in depth by zooming into the smallest details from within the Image Workspace.
Preview the AMICA Library™ Public Collection in Luna Browser Now

  • Cultures and time periods represented range from contemporary art, to ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian works.
  • Types of works include paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, costumes, jewelry, furniture, prints, photographs, textiles, decorative art, books and manuscripts.

Gain access to this incredible resource through either a monthly or a yearly subscription and search the entire collection from your desktop, compare multiple images side by side and zoom into the minute details of the images. Visit for more information on the collection, click on the link below the revolving thumbnail to the right, or email us at .

Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Water Basin: Pan
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1900
Creation End Date: 1999
Creation Date: possibly 20th century
Creation Place: China
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Vessels
Materials and Techniques: Bronze core plated with silver, the silver engraved and gilded
Dimensions: H. 3 in. (7.6 cm); D. 20 in. (50.8 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.108
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The dating of this large Chinese ritual water basin of the pan type is difficult to assess. In the center of the interior is a large quadripartite motif encircled by four animals (a tiger, a dragon, a qilin, and one other) against a background of swirling clouds and mist. The sides of the interior are decorated with two circular bands containing immortals and real and mythical animals. Smaller bands containing triangles, which are often interpreted as symbols for mountains, separate the larger areas from each other. Geometric and curvilinear motifs decorate the rim of the basin. The exterior is also filled with large bands of various animals and spirits against a background of mist and clouds and separated by smaller registers. A large, two-horned dragon with an open mouth, a type often termed a "laughing dragon," is found on the exterior of the base.

The immortals and mythological creatures that decorate this vessel derive from the art of the southern state of Qu, one of the most intriguing societies in China during the latter part of the Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BCE). Qu customs, beliefs, and artistic traditions were influential at the Han-dynasty court, particularly during the reign of Emperor Kaozu (206-194 BCE), and a dating of this basin to the early Western Han period (206 BCE-CE 9) is based on the early Han interest in southern culture and traditions as reflected in its art. Bronzes with comparable decoration inlaid into their surfaces were fairly common during the Western Han. However, the treatment of the designs on most examples of this type is noticeably more fluid than the motifs on this bronze, which appear somewhat static and frozen. This rigidity is evident in the stylized stalking postures of the animals in the base of the interior, which show no real movement or physical power; in the lack of movement in the figures; and in the swirling lines in the background of the basin. The treatment of the dragon engraved on the base of the foot is awkward, particularly the treatment of the front and back legs, which do not compare favorably with other dragons of this type.

A preliminary scientific analysis of the basin was undertaken by the staff of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The basin is composed of a bronze core that has a high content of silver and zinc as well as smaller amounts of tin and lead. This core is plated with silver, which has been engraved and gilded. The high silver content in the composition of the bronze is unusual for works dating from the Han period. In addition, the chemical composition of the metal is very close to that of several other Han-style bronzes in Western collections, many of which have been attributed to the hand of a certain Zhou Meike, who is believed to have been active in the region of Suzhou sometime around 1910. However, it should be acknowledged that the decoration on the works attributed to Zhou Meike are not stylistically close to those on this basin--they tend to have even stiffer decoration. At present, this piece requires further study before a final determination can be made.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 52.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 38, 95.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. 'Asian Art of the Rockefellers.' Connaissance des Arts 25 (February 1982), p. 58-59.
Related Document Description: Umehara, Sueji. Nihon Shucho Shina Kodo Seika (Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Japan). Osaka, 1959, vol. 6, no. 440.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.108
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

AMICA PUBLIC RIGHTS: a) Access to the materials is granted for personal and non-commercial use. b) A full educational license for non-commercial use is available from Cartography Associates at c) Licensed users may continue their examination of additional materials provided by Cartography Associates, and d) commercial rights are available from the rights holder.

Home | Subscribe | Preview | Benefits | About | Help | Contact
Copyright © 2007 Cartography Associates.
All rights reserved.