The immortals and mythological creatures that decorate this vessel derive from the art of the southern state of Qu, one of the most intriguing societies in China during the latter part of the Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BCE). Qu customs, beliefs, and artistic traditions were influential at the Han-dynasty court, particularly during the reign of Emperor Kaozu (206-194 BCE), and a dating of this basin to the early Western Han period (206 BCE-CE 9) is based on the early Han interest in southern culture and traditions as reflected in its art. Bronzes with comparable decoration inlaid into their surfaces were fairly common during the Western Han. However, the treatment of the designs on most examples of this type is noticeably more fluid than the motifs on this bronze, which appear somewhat static and frozen. This rigidity is evident in the stylized stalking postures of the animals in the base of the interior, which show no real movement or physical power; in the lack of movement in the figures; and in the swirling lines in the background of the basin. The treatment of the dragon engraved on the base of the foot is awkward, particularly the treatment of the front and back legs, which do not compare favorably with other dragons of this type.
A preliminary scientific analysis of the basin was undertaken by the staff of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The basin is composed of a bronze core that has a high content of silver and zinc as well as smaller amounts of tin and lead. This core is plated with silver, which has been engraved and gilded. The high silver content in the composition of the bronze is unusual for works dating from the Han period. In addition, the chemical composition of the metal is very close to that of several other Han-style bronzes in Western collections, many of which have been attributed to the hand of a certain Zhou Meike, who is believed to have been active in the region of Suzhou sometime around 1910. However, it should be acknowledged that the decoration on the works attributed to Zhou Meike are not stylistically close to those on this basin--they tend to have even stiffer decoration. At present, this piece requires further study before a final determination can be made.