Henan Museum
Bronze owl-shaped Zun with inscriptions of Fu Hao, wine vessel
Edit: Gp
Time: 2023-04-14 11:08:00
Period: Late Shang dynasty (1300 - 1046B.C.)
Provenance: Excavated from Fuhao tomb, Yin Ruins, Anyang city, 1976
Measurements: Height45.9cm, Mouth diameter16.4cm
Mouth diameter: 16.4cm

This owl-shaped zun wine vessel has small ears and a high crest, round eyes and a wide beak. It has a broad tail that stretches down to the ground, which, along with its two feet, provides the three supports for the vessel. There is a handle on the back of its neck, and a semi-circular opening on the back; the cover is decorated with a standing bird and a dragon. The tail is in the shape of an owl in flight. The carvings on the body are all finely detailed, with cicada, taotie and coiled serpent, and two-headed kui monster patterns all intermingling against the backdrop of thunder patterns that cover the vessel's entire body. There is an inscription that reads 'Fu Hao' on the inside wall.

In modelling this vessel on an animal, the craftsman who produced it combined a fertile imagination with reasonable exaggeration of actual forms. The ingenious use of animals as a model to produce a functioning ritual vessel displays both lifelike realism and artistic merit. The elaborate decoration on the vessel imbues the whole work with a dual sense of austerity and ferocity, making it a truly unique work of art. From the inscription we learn that this object was made for Fu Hao, the wife of the Shang king Wu Ding. When alive, she would have participated in important matters of state and gone on military campaigns.