Increased contact with the nomadic peoples living along the Zhou dynasty’s northern borders brought about new vessel types inspired by leather flasks.
This peculiar vessel reflects the influence of the art and culture of China’s northern neighbors. It is one of the earliest examples of similarly shaped vessels, produced from the late 8th to the early 5th century B.C., that are based on wine or milk flasks made from animal skins and worn across the shoulder or suspended from the waist. The decoration around the base of the vessel, which resembles a woven design, derives from the rope or fabric coils used to support such pliant vessels. Loops attached to the bottom and neck of the vessel once secured a chain handle. In spite of the nomadic origins of this shape, the vessel’s ornamentation of flat, petal-shaped bands set against a background of dense angular spirals, is typical of Chinese decor of the period.
[Zhixin Jason Sun, Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Orientations, March 2015]