Details & Cataloguing

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

New York

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the deep ovoid body resting on three splayed blade-like legs, finely cast in relief on each side with a taotie mask with protruding eyes, curly fangs, C-shaped horns and clawed forelegs, all on an intricate leiwen ground, divided on one side by a notched flange, and on the other by a vertical panel cast with an inscription beneath the loop handle issuing from a bovine head, the slightly waisted neck rising to two high flaring points on opposite sides, each cast on the underside with a pair of dragons with prominent circular eyes forming an inverted taotie mask, the three legs decorated with graduated concentric D-motifs within a single outline, a three-character inscription cast under the handle, reading yuan fu yi, the surface with a smooth grayish-green patina
Height 9 3/8  in., 23.8 cm
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Qing Imperial Collection.
Collection of Liu Tizhi (1879-1962).
Collection of Yu Xingwu (1896-1984).
Collection of Liang Shangchun (1888-?).
Sotheby's New York, 31th May 1989, lot. 21.


Christian Deydier Oriental Bronzes Ltd., London, 6-20th December 1995, cat. no. 10. 


Wang Jie, by the order of Emperor Qianlong, Xiqingxujian jiabian (Sequel A of the Xi Qing Gu Jian), 1793, vol. 12, p. 16.
Xu Tongbo, Conggutang kuanzhixue, (Studies of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Conggutang Studio), 1854, vol. 11, p. 16.
Liu Tizhi, Shanzhai jijin lu, (The Records of Auspicious Bronzes in the Shanzhai Studio), 1934, vol. 7, p. 59.
Wang Chen, Xu Yinwencun, (Continuation of the Surviving Writings from the Yin Dynasty), 1935, vol. 2, p. 33.
Liu Tizhi, Xiaojiaojingge jinwen taben, (Rubbings of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Xiaojiaojingge Studio), 1935, vol. 6, p. 80.
Rong Geng, Shanzhai yiqi tulu, (Catalogue of Archaic Bronzes in the Shanzhai Studio), 1936, no. 162.
Yu Xingwu, Shuangjianchi guqiwu tulu, (Catalogue of Ancient Objects in the Shuangjianchi Studio), 1940, vol. 1, pp. 71-72.
Rong Geng, Shangzhou yiqi tongkao, (A General Study of Archaic Bronzes in the Yin and Zhou Dynasties), 1941, vol. 2, p. 234, no. 443.
Liang Shangchun, Yanku jijin tulu, (Catalogue of Auspicious Bronzes in the Yanku Studio), 1943, vol. 1, pp. 24-25.
Yan Yiping, Jinwen Zongji, (Corpus of Bronze Inscriptions), Taipei, 1983, no. 4229.
Hayashi Minao, In Shu jidai seidoki no kenkyu: In Shu seidoki soran ichi, (Conspectus of Yin and Zhou Bronzes), Tokyo, 1984, vol. 2, pl. 191, jiao, no. 19.
The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yinzhou jinwen jicheng, (Compendium of Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions), 1984, vol. 14, p. 29, no. 8396.
Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng, (Compendium of Inscriptions and Images of Bronzes from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), Shanghai, 2012, vol. 17, p. 191, no. 8754.


The Qianlong Emperor was well known for his interest and passion for antiquity. In 1749, in the fourteenth year of his reign, the emperor ordered scholars from the royal academy, led by his ministers Liang Shizheng, Jiang Pu and Wang Youdun to compile a catalogue of the archaic bronzes in the imperial collection, titled Xi Qing Gu Jian (Reflection on Antiquity in the Western Tranquility). This project continued until 1793, culminating in four immensely rich multi-volume catalogues.

Xi Qing Xu Jian Jibian (Sequel A of the Xi Qing Gu jian) contains the first record of this remarkable bronze jiao, and in the original illustration, it appears with a cover. The imperial collection was later dispersed. In his Conggutang Kuanzhi xue (Studies of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Conggutang Studio), the famous 19th century seal carver Xu Tongbo (1775-1860 or 1854) noted that he was shown the bronze jiao by a local gentleman, Qian Youshan from Xiushui (Jiaxing). The bronze jiao later passed through a number of celebrated collections (Liu Tizhi, Yu Xingwu and Liang Shangchun) and was included in many publications.

The inscription reads 'Tian Mian Fu Yi' (Ancestor Fu Yi of the Tian Mian clan). The name 'Tian Mian (or Yuan)' is a pictograph, showing a standing man and a turtle underneath; it was previously deciphered as zisun (offspring), but is clearly a lineage name. There are nearly forty existing bronzes bearing this name, dating from the Shang to the Zhou periods.  In recent years, archaeologists in Anyang have found bronzes with the same name, which suggests that the clan was closely associated with the Shang royal house.

Another almost identical bronze jiao, also bearing the same clan name (probably dedicated to a different ancestor) is now in the Shanghai Museum collection. That bronze jiao came from old collections of celebrated late Qing dynasty collectors Ye Dongqing (active 19th century) and Chen Jieqi (1813-1884).

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

New York