This piece from a set of four archaic bronze vessels—a tripod cauldron (ding), covered food container (dui), flat basin (pan) and spouted water ewer (yi)—was unearthed in 1893 and formerly owned by Shengyu (1850–1900), a royal family member and renowned collector of Chinese antiquities. Known as the ‘Four Vessels of the Marquis of Qi’, they were commissioned in the 5th century B.C. by the Qi ruler as wedding gifts for his daughter. In spite of the vessels’ rather modest appearance, Chinese collectors and scholars valued them highly for their extensive inscriptions important both as historical documents and as rare examples of early Chinese calligraphy.
[Zhixin Jason Sun, Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Orientations, March 2015]