Wine Vessel: You

North China
Western Zhou period, about late 11th-early 10th century B.C.E.
H. 14 7/8 in. (37.8 cm) including handle, W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm) across flanges; 1979.100a,b

Artist Comments

Chen Shi-Zheng
I love this bronze. It's like a mask in triplicate. It is full of the mystery that in the early stage of human life is incorporated into everything. Everything humans created, they had a need to put mythology into. It was important to them to put myths even on the accessory objects, wine vessels, food vessels. Gods, humans, animals are intertwined-it's how they saw this world. Yet they were simultaneously fascinated with this vision. Their inner imagination was what they saw around them-it is mythical; it is reality; there isn't a distinction between them. It was never separated in daily life. Eating a bowl of rice is as sacred as going to church. Everything is a ritual. It's like a container in three parts. You can put anything in it-soup, rice, yam. Only if you think eating a meal is a mysterious experience, then life is fascinating.

Beth Forer
Chinese bronzes were my first serious introduction to Asian art. When I began working with clay, I copied them extensively and discovered how difficult it is to coordinate the many parts of a vessel: lid, foot, handle, flange, finial, surface decoration. This piece is nothing if not dynamic. Animal heads with ears swept back in perpetual pursuit anchor the handle. In turn, the handle whips energy over the lid in an endless circuit. Bands race horizontally around the form, trapping each tao t'ieh in its respective tier. Flanges erupt from foot, body, and lid. The entire piece is wrapped in energy yet never appears chaotic, a tribute to the graceful shape and masterful proportions of this powerful object.