Hu with Hunting Pattern

Tags: bronzes | National Palace Museum | vessel | Warring States Period


Warring States period (475-221 BC)
Height: 36.6 cm, greatest diameter: 27 cm 
Decorated with shallow relief design, portrayed on the neck of this vessel are birds with snakes in their mouths and on the shoulders are winged spirit figures. The belly is decorated with figures and animals, the area below filled with hooked-cloud and geometric patterns. The shape of a hu is an extended container surviving from the early Warring States period. Its simple form includes only two handles in the shape of animal heads with rings in their mouths on the side of the shoulders. Representational content as decoration was a major development in bronzes of the late Spring and Autumn period. Most Chinese bronzes of the Shang and Chou dynasties are decorated with patterns of animal masks and birds. By the late Spring and Autumn period (early 5th century BC), however, patterns of hunting scenes first appeared on bronzes in the north of China, and later it spread to China proper and also included dramatic scenes of feasts and battles as decoration, marking a distinguishing style of decoration on Chinese bronzes. Since hunting designs were the earliest to appear in this for of décor, and examples of such have been excavated in northern China, it has been proposed that the idea for such representational forms of decoration perhaps had its origin with the nomadic peoples who lived there, especially since these designs are quite similar to cliff drawings. Furthermore, this type of representation on bronzes is quite regional, archaeological discoveries revealing it as more popular in the regions of Honan, Shansi, Hopeh, and Shensi, while being quite rare in the eastern states of Ch'i and Lu as well as the southern state of Ch'u.

Text: Hsu Ya-hui

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