Bronze Ritual Vessel of the type Jia

Date: 11th century B.C.E.
Geography: China
Culture: Shang Dynasty
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: H: 12.375 in. D: 8.125 in.
Credit Line: Gift of The John Young Foundation
Accession Number: 2003.1.1

The Shang Dynasty spanned from 1600 BCE to 1046 BCE, and is considered to be the Bronze Age of Chinese history. The artisans of the Shang Dynasty were skilled in numerous areas, such as jade, ceramics, stone, wood; but their expert skill and technique is exhibited in their bronze work. Bronze was reserved primarily for weapons and ritual vessels, which were made using piece-mold casting; a technique in which clay molds were formed, decorated, and then filled with the molten metal to form the vessels. The name Jia refers to the shape, which is characterized by their round, bulbous shaped bodies and three leg support. This example of a Jia type vessel is the typical bronze with tripod footing. It has a decorated handle, a round neck and bulbous lower body that creates somewhat of a pear shape to the vessel. There is also a wide rim and mouth, bringing to mind the vessel's ritual role as a wine vessel. The neck of the vessel is decorated with a band of organic, swirling motifs. Two three-dimensional birds decorate the rim; they stand parallel to each other, giving the vessel a sense of balance and symmetry. It is not clear what specific type of bird decorates the rim; it could be a generic bird, which symbolizes the sun, or perhaps a dove, symbolizing fidelity.