Lidded ritual ewer (guang) with taotie, dragons, birds, tigers, elephants, fish, snakes, and humans

Ewer with design that incorporates many stylized birds and animals. No inscription.

Historical period(s)
ca. 1100-1050 BCE
H x W x D: 31.4 x 31.5 x 14.4 cm (12 3/8 x 12 3/8 x 5 11/16 in)
China, Middle Yangzi Valley
Credit Line
Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel

animal, casting, China, Shang dynasty (ca. 1600 - ca. 1050 BCE), taotie, wine, WWII-era provenance

From at least 1926 to 1961
Eugene Meyer (1875-1959) and Agnes E. Meyer (1887-1970), Washington, DC, and Mt. Kisco, NY, from at least 1926 [1]

From 1961
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer in 1961 [2]


[1] See H. d'Ardenne de Tizac, L'Art Chinois Classique (Paris: Henri Laurens, 1926), p. 25, pls. 6-7.

[2] See Agnes Meyer's Deed of Gift, dated December 21, 1961, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer (1875-1959) and (1887-1970)


Ewer with design that incorporates many stylized birds and animals. No inscription.


Stickers and painted inscription on bottom of lid read:
"K./No 266" (white sticker with red border)
"266" (round white sticker with black ink)

Written in red ink on bottom of lid:

Written in red ink on bottom of body"


This extraordinary vessel bristles with life, from the birds at the front and on the handles, to the humans wrapped in snakes on the back legs. Most likely made in southern China, it seems to offer a view of a spirit world in constant movement and flux.

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. 4.
  • Jörg Trübner. Yu and kuang zur typologie der chineseischen bronzen. Leipzig. pl. 40.
  • 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. 18.
  • Keng Jung. Shang chou i ch'i t'ung k'ao: Researches in Ceremonial Vessels of the Shang and Chou Dynasties. Peiping. pl. 360.
  • Hai wai i chen (Chinese Art in Overseas Collections). Taipei, 1985. vol. 2, p. 27.
  • Otto Kümmel. Chinesische Kunst: zweihundert Hauptwerke der Ausstellung der Gesellschaft für Ostasiatische Kunst in der Preussischen Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1929. Berlin. pl. 34.
  • Higuchi Takayasu. Chugoku seidoki hyakusen., 1 hen. Tokyo. pl. 19.
  • Kwang-chih Chang. The 'Meaning' of Shang Bronze Art. vol. 3, no. 2, Spring 1990. .
  • Liu Wang-hang. Chiu yu ch'ing t'ung chiu ch'i. No. 22 Taipei. p. 12.
  • Agnes E. Meyer. Charles Lang Freer and His Gallery. Washington, 1970. p. 12.
  • Lin-ts'an Li. Chung-kuo ti i shu kuang hui. no. 20, . p. 14.
  • Shang-hai po wu kuan. Shang Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'I wen shih. Pei-ching. p. 15, fig. 4.
  • Thomas Lawton. Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Memorial Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington, 1971. cat. 9, p. 18-19.
  • Higuchi Takayasu. Kijin to ningen no Chugoku. Tokyo. p. 29.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 7, p. 153.
  • Thomas Lawton Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 224, fig. 157.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 45, p. 255.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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