Detail View: The AMICA Library: Food Vessel: Gui

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: 
Food Vessel: Gui
Full view
Creation Date: 
Eastern Zhou period, c. 6th century BCE
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Classification Term: 
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
China, reportedly found in Shandong Province
H. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm) including cover; W. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm) across handles
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
The description of the Shang (c. 1700-c. 1050 BCE) and Zhou (c. 1050-221 BCE) periods in Chinese history as a Great Bronze Age stems from both the astonishing variety of shapes and motifs found in their ritual vessels and the sheer technical complexity involved in producing them. The Zhou, one of a number of peoples who inhabited parts of northwest China, defeated the Shang and established a capital in Xi'an, Shanxi Province. This early part of the dynasty is known as the Western Zhou (c. 1050-771 BCE). Rivals ultimately forced the Zhou to move their base farther east to Luoyang in Henan Province. The second half of the period is called the Eastern Zhou (770-221 BCE), probably best known as the age of Confucius.

Bronze vessels were items of luxury and power throughout the entire Zhou period, and changes in the types and decoration of these vessels illustrate the many cultural and political shifts that characterize this long and complicated era of Chinese history. The addition of a square podium to this gui food server is typical of the changes that occurred in the late Western Zhou period. The wavelike patterns decorating the vessel, its cover, and base; the dragon-shaped handles embellished with a small figure of a curly-tailed tiger crawling up and biting the dragon; and the elaborate articulation of the top part of the cover all exemplify this style. The continuing political importance of bronze vessels is illustrated by the fact that this gui vessel, despite its late Western Zhou shape and design, can be dated to the 6th century BCE, during the Eastern Zhou dynasty. This later dating is based on the discovery of a you vessel having the same pattern and similar handles on the slope of Mount Mang close to the Eastern Zhou capital. The inscription inside the you indicates that it was commissioned by the duke of Qi in honor of the marriage of his second daughter. Qi, one of the most important states of the Eastern Zhou period, had its base in Linzi in the heart of Shandong Province. The excavation of the inscribed you farther west in Henan suggests a marriage alliance between Qi and the royal Zhou clan. Two such marriages, one in 603 BCE and the other in 558 BCE, are recorded and provide a range of dates for the you, as well as for related pieces such as this gui. Along with an identical piece in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing, this gui is said to have been unearthed at Linzi, a reputation that, together with the prominence of the wave pattern and the dragon-tiger handles, further strengthens the association between these vessels and the state of Qi. Vessels commissioned by Qi are noted for their conservative shapes and designs. Their continuation of Western Zhou styles can be interpreted as both a matter of taste and a statement about their continuing alliance with the Zhou.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 50.
Related Document Description: 
Christie, Manson, and Woods. The Frederick M. Mayer Collection of Chinese Art (auction, London, June 25, 1974), pp. 356-59, lot 219.
Related Document Description: 
Ecke, Gustav. Sammlung Lochow: Chinesische Bronzen. Peking: Fujen Press, 1943-44, vol. 1, pls. 12, 13.
Related Document Description: 
Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Hong Kong and Singapore: Hong Kong Museum of Art and National Museum Singapore, 1993, pp. 112, 113.
Related Document Description: 
Loehr, Max. 'Ein Sockel-Kuei aus der Zeit des K'ungtse.' Monumenta Serica 7 (1942), pp. 227-37.
Related Document Description: 
Sutton, Denys. 'Search for Perfection.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 361.
Related Document Description: 
Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Tokyo: Idemitsu Museum of Arts, 1992, pp. 75, 134.
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