Ritual cauldron (ding) with masks (taotie) and cicadas

Ceremonial vessel, type ding. Light grayish green patina with some incrustation. Areas of malachite, azurite, and cuprite inside. Decorated with casting in intaglio and relief. Inscription.

Historical period(s)
late Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1100-1050 BCE
H x W x D: 35.3 × 29.5 × 29.6 cm (13 7/8 × 11 5/8 × 11 5/8 in)
China, probably Henan province, Anyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 23b: Anyang: China's Ancient City of Kings
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: ding

Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), China, cicada, mask

From 1941 to 1946
C. T. Loo & Company, New York, from April 1941 [1]

From 1946
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on October 31, 1946 [2]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 87095: "Bronze tripod CHOU / Large vessel Ting with two upright handles and on three straight legs. Decorated under the rim by a band of t'ao tieh mask on a spiral ground. On the body a band of triangles with cicadas in relief. Legs ornated with stylized cicadas. Green patina. Inscribed. Shang," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. The object was offered to two American collectors, first to "Mr. Booth" and then to Alfred F. Pillsbury in 1941, but was subsequently returned to Loo. In 1943 the vessel was brought to the Freer Gallery and was returned to Loo after two months. On January 30, 1945, the vessel was sent again to the Freer Gallery.

[2] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated October 31, 1946, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


Ceremonial vessel, type ding. Light grayish green patina with some incrustation. Areas of malachite, azurite, and cuprite inside. Decorated with casting in intaglio and relief. Inscription.


1. (From original folder sheet note 2) (A.G.W., 1947) This ting [chn] tripodal vessel is of unusually fine quality for one of its type and shape. The decoration, particularly the cicada patterns, and the so-called t'ao-t'iah masks with arms terminating in claws are typical of Shang dynasty design. The inscription on the bottom of the vessel inside appears to be a monogram composed of 3 characters and may be read [chn] [chn] [chn] chou ya chou. Possibly the repetition of the characters chou [chn] on either side of the ya [chn] character may have been done with a view to symmetry. If this be the case, the inscription might possibly be rendered "Chou of the Ya [nobility]." In any case it probably represents the name of the person or family for whom the vessel was made. The use of 2 or more characters so connected as to form a monogram is well recognized.

2. Inscribed on the bottom of the interior, Ya Zhou 亞舟 (“Deputy Officer of Boats”).

Published References
  • Sueji Umehara. Yin hsu: Ancient Capital of the Shang Dynasty at An-yang. Tokyo. pl. 69.
  • Shang Chou chin wen shi ch'eng. Multi-volume, Taipei. cat. 0562.
  • Chin wen tsung chi. Taipei. vol. 1: p. 199.
  • 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 14.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary, 1946-1947. Washington. p. 47, pl. 2.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 30, p. 171.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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