Lidded ritual wine container (you) in the form of two owls

Historical period(s)
middle Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1200-1100 BCE
H x W x D: 24.8 × 21.9 × 16.8 cm (9 3/4 × 8 5/8 × 6 5/8 in)
China, Henan province, Anyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: you

Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), bird, casting, China, WWII-era provenance

From 1941 to 1942
C. T. Loo & Company, New York in November 1941 [1]

From 1942
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on July 24, 1942 [2]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 87515: "Bronze jar with cover SHANG," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. The vessel was brought by Loo to the Freer Gallery for examination on March 19, 1942.

[2] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated July 24, 1942, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


This container was intended to hold ritual wine. Its squat shape accommodates a pair of owls standing back to back on short legs. Scale patterns on the legs, bodies, wings, and tails make the birds stand out from the background. On the lid, the owls’ heads have large, round eyes, down-turned beaks, small ears, and large horns. They are recognizable enough to be identified as Bubo bubo, the eagle owl of Europe and Asia (a relative of the great horned owl).

Published References
  • Daniel Shapiro. Ancient Chinese Bronzes: A Personal Appreciation. .
  • Yuan Te-hsing. A Discussion of the Dragon Motif in the Decoration of a Kuei. vol. 13, no. 2 Taipei, May-June 1978. fig. 1a.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 223.
  • Sueji Umehara. Yin hsu: Ancient Capital of the Shang Dynasty at An-yang. Tokyo. pl. 106.
  • T'an Tan-chiung. T'ung ch'i kai shu. Taipei. pl. 56.
  • Michael Sullivan. An Introduction to Chinese Art. Los Angeles and Berkeley, CA. fig. 11.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1942-1943. Washington. pl. 2.
  • Netta A. Owens. The Bronze Owl Vessels and Stone Artifacts from the Late Shang Period. M.A. Thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1979 Ann Arbor. pl. 26.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama [Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China]. Tokyo. pls. 4, 49.
  • Leila Mechlin. Rare Chinese Art on View in the Freer Gallery. Washington, 8 August 1943. .
  • Keng Jung, Chang Wei. Yin Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i t'ung lun [A Survey of Shang-Chou Bronzes]. Peking. cat. 170.
  • Higuchi Takayasu. Chugoku seidoki hyakusen., 1 hen. Tokyo. pl. 28.
  • Chen Mengjia. Yin Zhou qing tong qi fen lei tu lu [Yin-Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i fen lei t'u lu]. 2 vols., Dongjing. vol. 2.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 6, vol. 1: p. 154.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 1.
  • Compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. pp. 7, 30-31, pls. 11-12.
  • Theresa B. Frisch. Scythian Art and Some Chinese Parallels, Part I. vol. 2, no. 1. pp. 16-24, fig. 1c, 5g-h.
  • The Horizon Book of the Arts of China. New York. p. 45.
  • Theresa B. Frisch. Scythian Art and Some Chinese Parallels, Part II. vol. 2, no. 2, Autumn 1949. pp. 57-67, fig. 10a.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 47, p. 269.
  • Virginia Kane. The Chronological Significance of the Inscribed Ancestor Dedication in the Periodization of Shang Bronze Vessels. vol. 35, pt. 4 Washington and Zurich. pp. 335-7, fig. 25.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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