The Spouted Ritual Wine Vessel
The era of the Shang(ca. 1600-1050 B.C) and the Zhou (ca. 1046-256 B.C.) dynasties is generally known as the Bronze Age of China. During this period of time, bronze vessels were the most highly esteemed objects. In addition to their functional and symbolic role, these bronzes also exemplified the latest technical and artistic developments of their historic stage. Early bronze vessel, including the jue, gu, and ding, were mostly based on Neolithic pottery styles. But as bronze technology advanced, vessels took on shapes and decorative schemes that were unique to the medium, such as the "spouted ritual wine vessel" (guang) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This wine vessel is about 33 cm in width and 23cm in height and has a thick hollow body and a single thick base(might be hollow as well). The vertical bird-shaped handle at one end and the wide-open canal-like spout at the other demonstrate an unspoken stateliness. The existence of the handle is very noticeable on account of its strange appearance: ears or maybe horns on top of the head, exotic beak, and curly tail that makes it more like a short-tailed dragon. Except the wings, the bird almost can't be recognized as what it is. Frankly speaking, the handle and the body of this vessel are not a great match in terms of details. Unlike the coarse handle, the entire exterior of the vessel body is covered in a complex, elegant symmetrical design of thundercloud-patter motifs in intaglio(the so-called lei wen), and highly decorated with taotie. Generally speaking, the exterior is also based on the image of a bird, a hooked beak and glaring eyes can be seen at its front, horns and wings can be found at each side. A fish can be found at each side of the vessel, just right above the head of the bird, if close examination is taken. It seems like the bird legs are bended and feet are drawn as if it is flying. However, the position of the head and the wings somehow indicate...
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