Ya-ch'ou Square Kuei

Tags: bronzes | National Palace Museum | Shang dynasty | vessel


Late Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC)
Height: 20.7 cm, diameter: 11.9 x 17.6 cm, weight: 4945 g 
Many bronzes cast by the Ya-ch’ou clan have been unearthed around Su-pu-tun Village in I-tu, Shantung province, and scholars believe that they were the Pao-ku family found in the ancient text, “Tso-chuan”. This family, which prospered in the late Shang, was wiped out at the hands of King Ch’eng of the early Western Chou. Around forty percent of extant inscribed bronzes known to have been cast by the Ya-ch’ou clan are square in shape, and include the “tsun”, “i”, “lei” and “fou”, “hu”, and “chia” wine vessels, and the square “ting” cauldron, found in the tomb of the Shang consort Fu Hao. These vessels together comprised a set of ritual vessels in the late Shang period. This particular example belongs to the late Yin-Shang period, and is called the “Ya-ch’ou Square Kuei”. Its name derives from the fact that the inscription consists of the two Chinese characters”ya” and “ch’ou”. In addition to the bird, “k’uei” dragon and animal mask motifs, it also has six vertical flanges, in three sections, dividing up the surfaces. A unique feature is the handles, carved avian creatures, looking up and stretching their necks out into the open mouths of an animal mask.

Text: Yu Kuo-ching
Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum