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Hao Zeng Shaped Vessel with a Steam Pole
The Hao zeng-shaped vessel with a steam pole, which is a wine vessel, dates from the late Shang Dynasty. It has a mouth diameter of 32.5 cm and an overall height of 15.5 cm, with the steam pole measuring 13.1 cm, and a weight of 4.7 kg. It is now housed in Henan Museum.
In the history of mankind, Chinese civilization has been shining for its uniqueness, and continuing to this very day with vigor and vitality. Being a prominent birthplace of Chinese civilization ....>>Details
Name:Zhao Le Dong Yuange
About the Writer: 

Zhao Le: a museologist of the Collections Administration Department of Henan Museum, dedicated to collections design and research.

Dong Yuange, graduated from the Secretary Dept, Henan Institute of Finance and Economics, with a BA's degree. Holding an academic title of Museologist, she is dedicated to administration of books and journals, study on museology as well.


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The Hao zeng-shaped vessel has an everted mouth and a deep belly, featuring a steam pole and two ears. It is oval-shaped with a concave center, a slightly everted square rim with a groove in it, where a lid must have fitted. The lower part of the belly contracts into a curve and the center of the bottom is slightly sunken inward with its inside part hollow and base flat. The vessel was unearthed in January 1976 from Fu Hao's tomb at the Yin Ruins north of Xiaotun Village in Anyang City, Henan Province, in a rust-eaten fragmentary shape and with vestiges of silk fabric on one side of the belly. The original form has been restored since. Below the mouth, on the inside of the vessel, is inscribed with a Chinese character hao (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1 The inscription hao and its rubbing on the Hao vessel

The decorations on the outside of the vessel consist of two major groups. Below the mouth, there are six sets of birds whose heads face each other, complete with a crest, a hooked beak and round eyes. Each bird has short wings and a tail with long and downward-curving feathers, which is divided into two plumes adorned with feather designs. The belly is decorated with six pairs of large kui-dragons and six pairs of overlapping triangles (Fig. 2).


Fig. 2 Rubbing of the decoration on the Hao vessel

The central steam pole can serve to increase the heated area inside, causing a rapid rise in temperature. "This vessel is tentatively named so because of its structural similarity to the present-day steam boiler, with a hollow pole rising from the bottom, which has small perforations at the top. It can be placed above a li vessel so that the rising steam can cook the food [1]." The structure is as shown in Fig. 3: 1. steam pole; 2. flow of steam; 3. li's mouth; 4. ear; 5. lid; 6. wine or water; 7. decorations on the outside.


Fig. 3 Cross-section of the Hao vessel and how it works

From the bottom of the Hao vessel rises a cylindrical hollow steam pole, the top of which is in the form of a flower with four petals. At the center of the flower are four perforations shaped like sunflower seeds. The perforations and the upward concave hollow pole are vertically connected, and the top of the hollow pole, which serves for heating, is lower than the mouth of the vessel (Fig. 4).


Fig. 4 Cross-section of the steam pole and line drawing of its top

The Hao vessel was made using a separate casting technique, namely, casting the steam pole and the ears first before they were embedded in the mold for the vessel's main body. Then molten bronze was poured into the mold so that the steam pole was joined to the main body.

For most of the artifacts made of copper-tin-lead alloys found in Fu Hao's tomb, the lead content was added intentionally, which indicates the mastery of how to make ternary alloys--a new technique for that period. This finding, which was obtained through testing, serves as a scientific basis for the prevention and treatment of harmful rust on bronzes from the Yin Ruins.