The Ancient Chinese Bronze Hu Vessel

Hu a wine storage vessel current throughout the Bronze Age and continuing into the Han period. In Shang and Early Zhou periods two types were common.

One was tall and slender, often with a cover that could be reversed and used as a bowl; this type was circular in section and often rather sparingly decorated. The other type was elliptical in section, rather more heavily made and usually richly decorated with taotie masks.

Both types have cylindrical fittings on the neck for a carrying cord. In the Middle Zhou period the vessels are often circular in section, with a larger belly than the earlier ones, and there were ring handles suspended from animal lugs on the neck.

In the Huai style, the ring handles are sometimes replaced by vigorous animal handles set vertically. (‘Huai’ style after the geographical area in which many bronzes of the type had been found.)

Both Middle Zhou and Huai style examples were richly decorated. In the Han period, the decoration ceases to be an integral part of the casting, and ring handles return, suspended now from mask fittings.

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