Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 207

This elaborate set of wine vessels provides an idea of the splendor of Shang and early Zhou ritual ceremonies. The set is said to have come from a tomb uncovered in 1901; shortly thereafter, it entered the collection of Duan Fang, a senior Manchu official and one of the preeminent antiquarians of the late Qing period.

The pieces vary in style and execution. Although eleven of the vessels are inscribed, only one grouping shares identical inscriptions: the two wine containers, or you (nos. 2, 3) and the tall wine container, or zun (no. 4). A second grouping has largely comparable inscriptions: the spouted water vessel, or he (no. 5) and one cup, or zhi (no. 11).

A partial reconstruction of the set’s arrangement in the tomb may be established from corrosion outlines on the three principal vessels—the two wine containers, or you, and the central tall wine container, or zun—that were etched onto the surface of the altar table. The diagram shows a hypothetical arrangement of the remaining vessels around the major pieces. Even if this is accepted as the original grouping, the disparate inscriptions and vessel styles remain unexplained. Created around the time of the Zhou conquest of the Shang, and clearly by different foundries, the pieces of the set may represent the accumulated wealth of a family shrine.
1. Ritual Altar Table (Jin)
2. Ritual Wine Container (You)
3. Ritual Wine Container (You)
(24.72.3a, b)
4. Ritual Wine Container (Zun)
5. Spouted Ritual Water Vessel (He)
(24.72.5a, b)
6. Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi)
7. Ritual Wine Container (Jia)
8. Ritual Ladle (Dou)
9. Ritual Wine Vessel (Jue)
10. Ritual Wine Beaker (Gu)
11. Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi)
12. Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi)
13. Ritual Wine Vessel (Jiao)
14. Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi)

Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi), Bronze, China

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