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Buffalo-shaped yi
(Wine Container)


China, 13th-11th century B.C.
H. 14.3cm, L. 19.5cm
Bronze

A yi is a type of wine container that generally takes the form of an animal. In addition to yi vessels such as this in the shape of a buffalo, there are yi in the form of tigers and sheep. This charming yi, without inscription, is composed of two parts, the body and its lid, which extends from its head to its back with the throat of the buffalo forming a spout. Although it is unknown when bronze vessel started to be produced in China, by the mid-Shang (or yin) dynasty (ca. 14th century B.C.), bronze production and the technology for casting reached its apex, various bronze vessels were in great quantities in the following Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1046-771 B.C.). For this reason, the Shang and Zhou dynasties are called the Bronze Age, and all ancient Chinese bronze vessels are called Shang and Zhou bronzes, which include wine, food, and water containers, musical instruments, weapons, and horse and carriage equipment. Among these, the number of wine containers is extremely large, however, few are of high quality as this extremely rare example, which is considered a gem of the Shang and Zhou bronzes in Japan. The Shanghai Museum has a similar bronze wine vessel both in shape and size.

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