Gui, Food Vessel
China, Early Western Zhou Dynasty
Ca. 11th century B.C.
Gift of Mr. J. Lionberger Davis
Food vessels of this sort were placed in the graves of the deceased along with sacrificial victims, weapons, and tools as offerings to the spirits. They were cast in multi-part molds and often had intricate details rendered in relief, thus demonstrating the artisans complete mastery of the medium. The vessels’ shapes were derived from earlier ceramic prototypes.
This vessel has a rounded body on a ring foot, with two handles attached to a gently flaring rim. On the neck, a motif of “feathered dragons” can be discerned, interrupted midway between the handles by a small animal head in relief. Open-jawed feline heads spring from the tops of the loop handles. An incised inscription is on the base of the interior.
The comparative simplicity of design motifs and the lack of high sculptural relief on this particular vessel would tentatively place it in the Shang period. The motifs on this gui and its size and shape compare, however, with vessels excavated near Luoyang, in Henan Province, dating to the early Western Zhou period, 1100-770 B.C.
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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association