Square ritual food cauldron (fangding) with serpents and taotie

Historical period(s)
Early Western Zhou dynasty, ca. 1050-975 BCE
H x W: 26.3 x 15.8 cm (10 3/8 x 6 1/4 in)
China, Henan province, Luoyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: fangding

casting, China, snake, taotie, Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050 - 771 BCE), WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

Clearly visible on one of this vessel’s long sides is a cast inscription that records events associated with a key figure in early Zhou history: the Grand Protector or “Taibao,” Duke Shi of Shao. Since this fangding mentions the Taibao’s role in creating commemorative cauldrons dedicated to Wu and Cheng, the first two Zhou kings, it was probably made during the reign of the third king, Kang. A scribe or chronicler named Da must have somehow assisted the Taibao in this or another effort; according to the inscription, he received a white horse for his service. Virtually the same text recurs on three similar fangding, indicating they were made as a functional set of food vessels.

Published References
  • T'an Tan-chiung. T'ing ch'i kai shu. Taipei. pl. 54.
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 4: fig. 45.
  • Chin wen tsung chi. Taipei. vol. 2: p. 600.
  • Keng Jung. Shan chai i ch'i t'u lu [Illustrated Catalogue of Bronzes in the Collection of Liu T'i-chih]. Chinese texts and studies 3 vols., Peking. pp. 13b, 15b, pls. 43-44.
  • Lo Chen-yu. San tai chi chin wen ts'un [Corpus of Nearly 5000 Ancient Chinese Bronze Inscriptions]. p. 20b.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 34, p. 191.
  • Archibald Gibson Wenley. The Appearance of a Fourth Ta-tso tu ting as Proven by the Inscriptions. Munich. pp. 632-633.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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