Ritual wine container (fangyi) with masks(taotie), serpents, and birds

Ceremonial vessel with cover, type fangyi. White bronze patinated with azurite (chiefly inside), malachite and cuprite. Two inscriptions in ancient seal script.

Historical period(s)
Early Western Zhou period, ca. 1100 BCE
H x W x D: 35.3 x 24.8 x 23.3 cm (13 7/8 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/16 in)
China, probably Henan province, Luoyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 23a: Anyang: China's Ancient City of Kings
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: fangyi

bird, China, dragon, mask, taotie, Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050 - 771 BCE)

To 1930
Tonying and Company, New York, to 1930 [1]

From 1930
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Tonying and Company, New York, in 1930 [2]


[1] Object file, undated folder sheet note. See also Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Tonying and Company established 1902


Ceremonial vessel with cover, type fangyi. White bronze patinated with azurite (chiefly inside), malachite and cuprite. Two inscriptions in ancient seal script.


1. Two inscriptions in ancient seal script. See original folder sheet note 3 (A.G.W., 1944).

2. Inscribed in the lid and on the bottom of the interior by Zuoce Ling 作冊令 (“Recorder Ling”)


Despite the beauty of its decoration, with elaborate taotie patterns and animal motifs rendered in different levels of relief, this vessel is most famous for its lengthy cast inscription of 187 characters. The text, one of the longest from the early Zhou period, is repeated inside the vessel and the lid. A court scribe named Ling might have composed the text himself; the cast inscription resembles the rhythm and flow of calligraphy. If so, he could have been following a family tradition: he was a younger relative of Da, who was responsible for the fangding (F1950.7) in the Freer collection.

The vessel commemorates three days of administrative meetings and ritual ceremonies held in Chengzhou during the reign of Zhao, the fourth Zhou monarch. Mingbao, the son of the Duke of Zhou and a nephew of the Taibao, led the events, which began with a massive gathering of court and regional officials and concluded with offerings of animal sacrifices. Afterwards, in appreciation of their efforts, Mingbao awarded ritual wine, “metal” (probably bronze), and oxen to Ling and his colleague Captain Kang, with the order that the gifts be used for ritual purposes.

Published References
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Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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