Bronze Ritual Vessel in the Shape of a Rhinoceros

Illustration

Justin Chay
by
published on 18 June 2018

This bronze ritual vessel dates to 1100 – 1050 BCE (Shang Dynasty period).

Unearthed in Liangshan, Shandong, the vessel, likely used to hold wine or food, is notable for its differences from other bronze ritual vessels of its time. Few bronze vessels in China were made in the form of animals, and fewer still lacked surface ornamentation, as this vessel does. The vessel is also notable for its lifelike depiction of a rhinoceros, with detailed folds of thick skin and a low-hanging belly.

An inscription inside the belly of the rhinoceros records a gift of cowry shells given to a "Lesser Minister Yu" in the same year that the Shang king launched a military expedition against the Renfang state. This information allowed scholars to date the vessel to the reign of the last king of the Shang Dynasty, Zhou, also known as Di Xin. (San Francisco Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA)

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