In the event of a government shutdown, the National Museum of Asian Art will remain OPEN through at least Saturday, October 7, by using prior year funds. Visit for updates.

Lidded ritual wine container (zun) in the form of a bird

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 1

Terms of Use

Usage Conditions Apply

At A Glance

On View
  • Period

    ca. 5th century BCE
  • Geography

    Shanxi province, China
  • Material

    Bronze with gold inlay
  • Dimension

    H x W x D: 26.5 x 13.5 x 20 cm (10 7/16 x 5 5/16 x 7 7/8 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Description

    Tsun. Stylized dove; four gold characters on chest. Lu-yu type.
  • Provenance

    Reportedly excavated near Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China [1]
    To 1915
    Marcel Bing (1875-1920), Paris, France [2]
    1915 to 1959
    Eugene Meyer (1875-1959) and Agnes E. Meyer (1887-1970), Washington, DC and Mt. Kisco, NY, purchased from Marcel Bing through C. T. Loo, Lai Yuan & Co., New York in December 1915 [3]
    1959 to 1961
    Agnes E. Meyer inherited upon the death of her husband, Eugene Meyer on July 17, 1959 [4]
    From 1961
    Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, 1961 [4]
    [1] According to a note in C. T. Loo, Lai-Yuan & Co.'s invoice, issued to Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Meyer on December 10, 1915, copy in object file.
    An excavation of a similar bird-shaped bronze wine container from a fifth-century B.C. tomb in the area of Taiyuan in 1987 confirmed the traditional attribution of the Freer bronze, see Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art (Washington DC: Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1993), pp. 223, 225, fig. 159.
    [2] Bing's ownership is documented in several locations. See, for example: November 11, 1915 letter from Marcel Bing to Charles Lang Freer; letters from December 10 and 15 from Eugene Meyer to Charles Lang Freer; telegrams exchanged between Marcel Bing, Charles Lang Freer, and Eugene Meyer dating from November 15 to December 5, 1915; and February 2, 1916 letter from Charles Lang Freer to Marcel Bing. Copies of aforementioned documents in object file. See also Lawton and Merrill 1993, cited in note 1.
    [3] Eugene Meyer, Agnes E. Meyer, and Charles Lang Freer negotiated with Marcel Bing to arrange a joint purchase of Bing's collection of 11 Chinese bronzes and 1 jade. See correspondence cited in note 2. The Meyers and Freer decided to divide the collection - Meyers acquiring 5 bronzes (including this object) and Freer acquiring 6 bronzes in addition to the jade -- and the price, calculating each party's payment was based on the appraisal values assigned to each piece. The Meyers ultimately sent the entire payment to C. T. Loo, Lai Yuan & Company (sometimes spelled Lai-Yuan), who in turn wired money to Bing. Lai Yuan & Company received a consigners fee from Bing. Meyers made the payment in early December 1915, with Freer paying the Meyers for the objects destined for his collection on December 14, 1915.
    All the objects included in this large sale, which were originally divided between the Meyers and Freer are now in the museum's collection ( F1915.102; F1915.03a-b; F1915.104; F1915.105; F1915.106a-f; F1915.107; F1915.108; F1961.30a-b; F1961.32a-b; F1968.28; F1968.29). For a full explanation of the joint endeavor between the Meyers and Freer, see: Dorota Chudzicka, "'In Love at First Sight Completely, Hopelessly, and Forever with Chinese Art': The Eugene and Agnes Meyer Collection of Chinese Art at the Freer Gallery of Art" in Collections Vol. 10, No. 3 (Summer 2004), 334-335.
    Shortly after the acquisition, the Meyers lent this bronze to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, see S. C. Bosch Reitz, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery and Sculpture, exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1916), cat. 340 (ill.).
    [4] Eugene Meyer died in Washington D.C. on July 17, 1959. Upon his death, his wife, Agnes E. Meyer inherited the entirety of the couple's collection.
    [5] See Agnes E. Meyer's Deed of Gift, dated December 21, 1961, copy in object file.
  • Collection

    Freer Gallery of Art Collection
  • Exhibition History

    Art and Industry: China’s Houma Foundry (October 14, 2017 - ongoing)
    Clay and Metal: Ancient Chinese Ceramics and Metal (February 25, 1997 to August 9, 2011)
    Chinese Metalwork (May 9, 1993 to March 21, 1997)
    Chinese Art (February 18, 1983 to April 1, 1987)
    Chinese Art (March 15, 1982 to June 15, 1982)
    Chinese Art of the Warring States Period: Change and Community, 480-222 B.C. (September 30, 1982 to February 17, 1983)
    Chinese Art (March 9, 1981 to March 12, 1982)
    Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Memorial Exhibition (September 25, 1971 to October 2, 1972)
    Chinese Art (January 1, 1963 to March 6, 1981)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Marcel Bing (1875-1920)
    Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer ((1875-1959) and (1887-1970))
    Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
  • Origin

    Shanxi province, China
  • Credit Line

    Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer
  • Type

  • On View

    Freer Gallery 18: Art and Industry: China's Ancient Houma Foundry
  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The National Museum of Asian Art welcomes information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.

Keep Exploring