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Ritual vessel in the shape of a rhinoceros

Few Chinese vessels made during the Bronze Age (approx. 1500–221 B.C.E.) were in the form of animals, and most of those featured surface decorations of other animals, like tigers or dragons. Listen to Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum, discuss one of the museum's masterpieces, a ritual vessel in the shape of a rhinoceros, as you view the object in 3D. Learn more about this ritual vessel on the Asian Art Museum's education website. Created by Asian Art Museum.

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Video transcript

J shoe director of the Asian Art Museum here we are looking at a ancient Chinese bronze vessel dating from around early 11th centuries BCE and it is extraordinary no other museum or private collections that I know of has such a wonderful work of art in the shape of a rhino this ritual vessel was used to hold a fermented beverage and the oval opening may have been covered with a now-missing lid that would conform to the contours of the animal very few Chinese vessels made during the bronze age were in the form of animals and those that were featured surface decorations of linear patterns and other animals like tigers or dragons this one is rare for its undecorated surface please look at the sculpture as Jeju describes some details of this figure this Rhino is the only one depicted entirely in its own natural state we may even notice the folds of the very thick skin and give you a sense of what the real Rhinos hide look like the Rhinos snout looks very powerful it has two holes the ears stands up and expands outwards indicating a state of alertness and the belly of the Rhino droops down to give you a sense of what the weight of the real Rhino is another important piece of information about the Rhino its inscription in the bottom cast at the same time as a rhino South Italy course a lessor Minister by name of you who received a royal gift in the form of quarry shells the inscription notes that this honor took place during the fiftieth year of the king the same year that he embarked on a campaign against one of his enemies named Ren Fong because this information the scholar could date the vessel to the last king of the Sun dynasty in the early 11th century pce the next vessel which happened to be in the shape of a rhino was made in China 1,000 years later in other words this ritual vessel is one-of-a-kind you