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Ritual Food Vessel (zhan)

Location

SOUTH-CENTRAL CHINA

Era

Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-221 B.C.E.), middle to late Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.E.)

Title

Ritual Food Vessel (zhan)

Date

Late 7th-early 6th c. B.C.E.

Materials

Copper alloy (bronze) Wooden Stand: 19th c.

Dimensions

13.5 cm (h.), 18 cm (diam.)

Credits

Gift of F. Cleveland Morgan, inv. 1962.Ed.36a-c

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

Zhan vessels have been unearthed in Henan, Hubei and Hunan provinces, dated from the late seventh to the early sixth century B.C. and ascribed to the southern culture of Chu. Characterized by a bulbous body and a flattened lid topped by a trumpet-shaped central crown, zhan like this provide the first evidence for lost-wax casting in China. This is how the interlaced snake pattern of the crown was created, while the rest of the body was cast according to the traditional piece-moulding technique. Their function can only be guessed at, although their association in tombs with gui vessels could indicate a similar role as food recipients, perhaps to contain grain. The vessel’s confinement to Chu areas also suggests that it may have held a special ritual connotation, which is unfortunately unknown today.

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