Bell (Nao)

Period: Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–1046 B.C.)

Culture: China

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. 6 1/16 in. (15.4 cm); W. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm); D. 4 3/4 in. (12.1 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. John Marriott, Mrs. John Barry Ryan, Gilbert W. Kahn, Roger Wolfe Kahn (children of Addie W. Kahn), 1949

Accession Number: 49.136.10


Nao were typically arranged in sets of three or five. Played with the mouth facing upward, smaller examples could be held in the hand while larger ones, known as yong, required a frame support. Shang-dynasty instruments such as this nao were frequently decorated with the taotie motif—a symmetrical design representing the flattened face, or "split representation," of a mythological animal.