One of a pair of tigers, possibly the base supports for a bell stand

A tiger with an open hollow chamber in the center. Green patina with traces of earth adhesions on surface. Cast in low relief.

Historical period(s)
Middle Western Zhou dynasty, ca. 950-850 BCE
H x W x D: 25.1 x 15.9 x 75.1 cm (9 7/8 x 6 1/4 x 29 9/16 in)
China, Shaanxi province, Baoji
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel


China, tiger, Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050 - 771 BCE)

To 1935
Tonying and Company, New York. [1]

From 1935
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Tonying and Company, New York. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record. See also Curatorial Remark 9 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Tonying and Company established 1902


A tiger with an open hollow chamber in the center. Green patina with traces of earth adhesions on surface. Cast in low relief.


Although the purpose of this bronze object and it's pair F1935.21 is unknown, the inspiration for the form is obvious. Like real tigers, the ferocious heads have alert, menacing eyes and erect ears, as if the matching animals are ready to move. Each low-slung body is supported by powerful, sturdy legs and ends with a long, coiled tail. Dots on the face represent whisker follicles, and stripes on the middle section, lower legs, and tails resemble the unique markings of these fierce creatures. Despite having added curving fangs and intricate decorations on the shoulders and haunches, the designer was obviously familiar with the appearance of real tigers. This suggests parts of north China were warm enough to support such wildlife three thousand years ago.

When the Freer Gallery acquired the pair in 1935, an accompanying note claimed the bronze tigers had been unearthed in 1923 at Baoji in Shaanxi province, where monarchs of the Zhou dynasty had reigned for more than a century.

Published References
  • Sueji Umehara. Shina kokogaku ronko [Studies in Chinese Archaeology]. Showa 13 Tokyo, 1938-1940. pl. 146.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary for the year ended June 30, 1936. Washington. pl. 2.
  • Michael Sullivan. A Short History of Chinese Art. Berkeley. fig. 6a.
  • Michael Sullivan. An Introduction to Chinese Art. Los Angeles and Berkeley, CA. fig. 14.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1936. Washington, 1936-1937. pl. 2.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. vol. 1: p. 93, fig. 62.
  • Jose Gomez-Sicre. Guia de las colecciones pu´blicas de arte en los Estados Unidos. 2 vols., Washington. vol. 1: p. 37, cover.
  • Laurence Sickman, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 6.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 77-78, vol. 2.
  • Hugo Munsterberg. A Short History of Chinese Art. New York, 1949. pl. 8.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama [Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China]. Tokyo. pls. 122-123.
  • Hakutsura Bijutsukan. Old Chinese Art. Osaka. pl. 12.
  • Bernhard Karlgren. Miscellaneous Notes on Some Bronzes. no. 33 Stockholm. pl. 9, fig. 19.
  • Keng Jung. Shang chou i ch'i t'ung k'ao: Researches in Ceremonial Vessels of the Shang and Chou Dynasties. Peiping. vol. 2: pl. 372.
  • Keng Jung, Chang Wei. Yin Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i t'ung lun [A Survey of Shang-Chou Bronzes]. Peking. cat. 150.
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 4: fig. 53.
  • Capolavori nei secoli: Enciclopedia di tutte i popoli in tutti i tempi. 12 vols., Milan, 1961 - 1964. vol. 3: p. 19.
  • Ludwig Bachhofer. A Short History of Chinese Art. New York. pl. 47.
  • Walter M. Weinberger. Some Notes on Early Pottery and Stone Artefacts Excavated on Lamma Island. vol. 24 London, 1948-1949. pp. 3, 31-37, pl. 18, fig. a.
  • Untitled Article. Washington, Sunday, January 26, 1936. p. 5.
  • Dagny Carter. Four Thousand Years of China's Art. New York. p. 20.
  • Gary J. Tee. Evidence for the Chinese Origin of the Jaguar Motif in Chavin Art. vol. 21, no. 1. pp. 27-29, pl. 2.
  • Michael Sullivan. The Arts of China., 3rd ed. Berkeley. p. 35.
  • Yumiko Suefusa. Yin and Chou Bronzes, with Special Reference to ssu kuang-Type Receptacles. no. 55 Tokyo, March 1978. p. 37.
  • Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 43, fig. 33.
  • Compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. pp. 52-53, pls. 26-27.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 62-63.
  • Beasts & Beauty in Bronze., February 10, 1958. p. 83.
  • Herman Floris Eduard Visser. Aziatische Kunst in Amerika, I-II. vol. 16, no. 2/4 Amsterdam, February - April 1939. p. 103.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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