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Ritual Food Vessel (gui)




Western Zhou dynasty (about 1050-771 B.C.E.)-Qing dynasty (1644-1911)


Ritual Food Vessel (gui)


10th c. B.C.E. (vessel), 17th-19th c. C.E. (lid)




24.6 x 31.6 x 24.2 cm


F. Cleveland Morgan Bequest, inv. 1962.Ed.35a-b


Archeology and World Cultures

This ritual food vessel (gui) is an incredible time traveller, telling a fascinating tale of migration and fluctuation of meaning. Once part of a larger set of containers, which was used in the ancestor rites of the early Western Zhou dynasty, this food-offering bronze was, according to the formulaic inscription in the cavetto, meant to be cherished and passed down from generation to generation. It was eventually deposited in a tomb to serve its master in the afterlife, and its presence there was clear evidence of the deceased’s wealth. During the Qing dynasty, it surfaced as part of the imperial collection of the prince Kong, not as a ritual vessel for food but as a censer, complete with a splendid teak lid, a tacit homage to the magnificence of the Zhou dynasty. Eventually the New York dealer Yamanaka and Son sold it to F. Cleveland Morgan, volunteer curator of the Museum from 1912 to 1962, when Prince Kong’s entire collection was auctioned in 1912.

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