Ritual wine ewer (gong) in the form of a tiger, owl, and water bird

Ceremonial covered vessel, type kuang. Smooth, soft green patina with scattered incrustations outside and in; criss-cross mold-impression on the bottom; cast inscription of 2 characters inside cover and vessel.

Historical period(s)
early Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1300-1200 BCE
H x W x D: 23.5 × 31.4 × 11.6 cm (9 1/4 × 12 3/8 × 4 9/16 in)
China, probably Henan province, Anyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 23b: Anyang: China's Ancient City of Kings
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: gong

Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), bird, China, tiger, wine

From at least 1937 to 1938
C. T. Loo & Company, Paris and New York from at least August 30, 1937 [1]

From 1938
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company, New York on February 4, 1938 [2]


[1] See "List of objects owned by C. T. Loo & Co., New York [and sent to] the Gallery for examination," copy in object file. According to an annotation on the list, the vessel was received from Paris on August 30, 1937.

[2] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated January 17, 1938, with an annotation that it was passed for payment on February 4, 1938. The invoice was issued by C. T. Loo's New York gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


Ceremonial covered vessel, type kuang. Smooth, soft green patina with scattered incrustations outside and in; criss-cross mold-impression on the bottom; cast inscription of 2 characters inside cover and vessel.


1. (From original folder sheet note 3) (J.E.L., 1938) [misnumbered as 2 in original folder sheet] The first of the two characters in the inscription represents a building; the second, an axe-head. The same characters, but in reverse order, appear in an inscription reproduced by [chn] in his Chen sung t'ang chi ku i wen (Vol. IV, p. 34 verso), where he describes them respectively as a [chn] ch'ung wu and a [chn] fu. The latter term simply means "axe"; but ch'ung wu, ---- literally "double house," --- is, perhaps less definite, although the form of the ideograph certainly suggests "two-storied house" as a probable meaning (see, however, Biot, Le Tcheou-li, Tome II, p. 559, paragraph 29 and notes). In any case, the Chou Li ([chn], p. 47, recto; and cf., Biot, loc.cit.) says that the people of [chn] Yin built such houses, ---- though whether the statement can have any bearing on the dating of our Kuang seems at best doubtful.

2. Inscribed, Cang Qi 亯(倉) 戚 (Official title related to storehouses and, possibly, ceremonial jade blades)


A metamorphic fantasy, this vessel combines actual and mythical animals. A long-necked water bird forms the handle, but its tail morphs into the neck and chest of a tiger.  Its wings and feet can also combine with an owl’s head. Five pairs of dragons are loosely drawn in narrow bands.

Published References
  • Daniel Shapiro. Ancient Chinese Bronzes: A Personal Appreciation. .
  • William Watson. China Before the Han Dynasty. Ancient Peoples and Places, vol. 23 New York. fig. 29.
  • Webster Prentiss True. The First Hundred Years of the Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1946. Washington. before p. 45.
  • Mary Tregear. Chinese Art. London. pl. 19.
  • T'an Tan-chiung. T'ung ch'i kai shu. Taipei. pl. 57.
  • Peter C. Swann, Claude Arthaud, Francois Herbert-Stevens. Chinese Monumental Art. Studio book New York. pl. 13.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary, 1938. Washington, 1938-1939. pl. 2.
  • Regina L. Shoolman, Charles E. Slatkin. The Enjoyment of Art in America: A Survey of the Permanent Collections of Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics & Decorative Arts in American and Canadian Museums: Being an Introduction to the Masterpieces of Art from Prehistoric to Modern Times. Philadelphia and New York. vol. 1: pl. 12.
  • Netta A. Owens. The Bronze Owl Vessels and Stone Artifacts from the Late Shang Period. M.A. Thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1979 Ann Arbor. pl. 20.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama [Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China]. Tokyo. pl. 52.
  • Bernhard Karlgren. Some New Bronzes in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. no. 24 Stockholm. pl.5-6,fig.36,64.
  • Keng Jung, Chang Wei. Yin Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i t'ung lun [A Survey of Shang-Chou Bronzes]. Peking. cat. 157.
  • Carl Hentze. Bronzegerat, Kultbauten: Religion im ältesten China der Shang-Zeit. 2 vols., Antwerp. pls. 201-202.
  • The Encyclopedia of World Art. 17 vols., New York, 1959-1968. vol. 3: pl. 222.
  • Higuchi Takayasu. Chugoku seidoki hyakusen., 1 hen. Tokyo. pl. 17.
  • Chin wen tsung chi. Taipei. vol. 6: p. 2692.
  • Robert W. Bagley, Max Loehr, Cornell University Press. Max Loehr and the Study of Chinese Bronzes: Style and Classification in the History of Art. Cornell East Asia, no. 141 Ithaca. fig. 78.
  • Chen Mengjia. Yin Zhou qing tong qi fen lei tu lu [Yin-Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i fen lei t'u lu]. 2 vols., Dongjing. vol. 2: A 652.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 3, vol. 1: p. 153.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 1.
  • W. Aubrey Cartwright. Guide to Art Museums in the United States: East Coast, Washington to Miami., 1st ed. New York. p. 24.
  • 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. p. 26, pl. 5-6.
  • Yumiko Suefusa. Yin and Chou Bronzes, with Special Reference to ssu kuang-Type Receptacles. no. 55 Tokyo, March 1978. pp. 29-61.
  • T'an Tan-chiung. Hsin-cheng t'ung ch'i [Hsin-cheng Bronzes]. Taipei. p. 34, ill. 30.
  • Whitney N. Morgan. Museum Accessions. vol. 11, no. 1 New York, January 1939. pp. 38-39.
  • Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 39, fig. 27.
  • The Horizon Book of the Arts of China. New York. p. 51.
  • Beasts & Beauty in Bronze., February 10, 1958. p. 84.
  • Eileen M. Berry. Heritage Studies 6: To Know the Past., 2nd ed. Greenville, SC. p. 101.
  • Herman Floris Eduard Visser. Aziatische Kunst in Amerika, I-II. vol. 16, no. 2/4 Amsterdam, February - April 1939. p. 103.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 43, p. 243.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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