three legs; slightly lobed body; round neck and outward flaring round mouth; one handle in the form of an animal's head with its tongue sticking out; to vertical elements at rim; zigzag/chevron design on body; incised inscription under handle

Ritual wine vessel (jia), 1046-771 BCE

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This three-legged bronze vessel, known as a jia, was used for holding wine in ritual ceremonies during the Western Zhou Dynasty in China (1046–771 BCE). A seven-character inscription beneath the cow head-shaped handle reads, “Duke of Quan made this precious sacrificial vessel for the late father.” Jia were among the earliest Chinese bronze vessels cast during the Erlitou period (c. 2000–1600 BCE). Archaeological excavations found more wine vessels than food vessels, suggesting that people of the early Bronze Age paid more attention to the role of wine in ritual ceremonies. Some excavated jia show smoke marks on the exterior bottom and have interior encrustation, suggesting that the vessel was used to heat wine over a fire.

This jia is a famous bronze vessel and has been well documented and published. It was once in the collection of Zhang Junheng (1872–1927), a renowned Mandarin who made an unusual ink rubbing of the vessel in 1895 or earlier. One of the most renowned scholars in China’s modern history, Luo Zhenyu (1866–1940), wrote a colophon on the hanging scroll that bears this ink rubbing, calling the jia a “meiqi 美器” or “gorgeous vessel.”

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three legs; slightly lobed body; round neck and outward flaring round mouth; one handle in the form of an animal's head with its tongue sticking out; to vertical elements at rim; zigzag/chevron design on body; incised inscription under handle