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Medium sized cauldron with green patina, two handles, and three legs.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Medium sized cauldron with green patina, two handles, and three legs.


Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BC ), early 9th century BC



About this artwork

As this monumental cauldron demonstrates, the most distinctive bronze vessels of early China represent important historical documents as well as stunningly powerful works of art. Designed to contain offerings of meat in ritual ceremonies, this vessel was cast with a lengthy inscription on its interior bowl. The text commemorates a solemn ritual ceremony at the imperial court of the Zhou, the second dynasty recorded in Chinese texts, and explains that Captain Wang, a noble official who had been rewarded for his loyal service to the Zhou king, commissioned this vessel to honor his deceased father and record the occasion for succeeding generations. Together with the inscription, the vessel’s shallow profile and austere surface decor date it to the early ninth century BC. Although the monsterlike masks that project from each leg display animal imagery common on older bronzes, the two registers of hooked, ribbonlike bands that encircle the bowl preserve only traces of early dragon or bird patterns. The transition from zoomorphic to abstract surface designs marks a significant turning point in the art of early Chinese bronzes. Recent archaeological discoveries of similar bronze vessels in China indicate that this cauldron was most likely buried as part of a large hoard.


On View, Gallery 131


Arts of Asia




China (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1050 BCE–771 BCE




Inside of the cauldron, Shi Wang Ding ( 師朢鼎 ): 大師小子師朢曰:不(_丕)_顯皇 考劺公,穆穆克盟氒心、伳(_哲) 氒德,用辟于先王,势(_得)_屯(_純) 亡敃。朢肈(_肇)_帥井(_型)_皇考,虔 攵(_夙)_夜出内(_入)_王命,不敢不 壐(_遂)_不壑。王用弗俶(_忘)_聖人 之後,多蔑曆易(_賜)_休。朢敢 對剣(_揚)_天子不(_丕)_顯魯休,用 乍(_作)_朕皇考劺公丬(_尊)_鼎。師 朢侔(_其)_萬年子子孫孫永寶用。 Translation: The Grand Captain's young son Captain Wang says: "Illustriously august deceased-father Duke Jiu was beautifully capable of making accordant his heart and making wise his virtue, with which he served the past kings, and gained purity without flaw. Wang for the first time has gone on to emulate his august deceased-father, respectfully morning and night taking out and bringing in the king's commands, not daring not to follow through or to manage. Because of this, the king has not forgotten the sagely man's descendant, and has greatly praised his accomplishments and awarded him beneficence. Wang dares in response to extol the Son of Heaven's illustriously fine beneficence, herewith making for my august deceased-father Duke Jiu this offertory caldron; may Captain Wang for ten-thousand


49 × 43 cm (19 3/8 × 16 15/16 in.)

Credit Line

Major Acquisitions Centennial Fund

Reference Number


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