Shang dynasty (1600-1034 BC)
Height 24.5 cm, Mouth Diameter 13 cm
Excavated from the Shang tombs at Baijia Village, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, 1955
This lei vessel has a small mouth with flared rim, a long neck with a break on its shoulder a deep body, and a rounded base with a high ring foot. The shoulder is decorated with a thunder pattern, the body bears taotie and cloud designs.the foot is decorated with bowstring patterns and three cross-shaped patterns made with Pierced holes, and the neck has three turtle-shaped images. The overall design is highly refined, with the ornamentation of the turtle-shaped images on the neck the most prominent feature of the work. The ancient Chinese viewed Testudines (tortoises and turtles)as a good omen and symbol of fertility, and frequently used them as an iconographic motif. This is seen in the totemic imagery of Neolithic China, where the tortoise was the main focus of worship. Some scholars believe that the turtle pattern on this lie bronze vessel could be a clan insignia, while others consider it to be an early form of the Chinese character 'min’ (黽), meaning toad. If the latter supposition is correct, this work would be China’s earliest example of text inscribed on bronzes.