Antiques, Artifacts & Fine Collectibles. Ancient Chinese Bronze Rhinoceros Wine Vessel (Zun). Military Officers Symbol for the 7. Inscription & Partial English Translation Provided. Western Zhou Culture, Henan Province.Bronze Rhinoceros Wine Storage Vessel (Zun). 9.5 (24 cm) long x 4.75 (12 cm) tall x 3 (8 cm) wide. Western Zhou Culture (1045 BC771 BC). Condition: Museum quality, with heavy bronze oxidation and earthen deposits. This ancient Chinese bronze vessel (in Chinese Zun) is in the shape of a two-horn, Sumatran Rhinoceros (in Chinese Xi or Si) and dates to the Western Zhou Culture (1045BC771 BC). A skilled artisan molded this stout rhinoceros that has a small, hinged lid on his back. Similar examples found in the worlds finest museums suggest that this piece was made in the famous Shang capitol of Anyang, which is located in the modern province of Henan. A skilled craftsman made this wine vessel (called a Zun in Chinese) during what is called the Anyang Period of the Western Zhou Culture, which lasted from about 1045 BC to 771 BC.
This ritual bronze vessel would have held rice or millet wine as a sacrifice to the Gods to honor the Spirit of an elite member of Zhou society as he journeyed towards the afterlifeHeavenor Tien in Chinese. Originally cast as a spectacular ritual wine vessel for a high ranking member of the Shang dynasty aristocracy, it is outstanding for its size, the cast inscription/dedication, the quality of its decoration, and the rich azurite-blue patina that is so coveted by collectors of ancient bronzes.Museum quality, with heavy bronze oxidation and earthen deposits. Original oval cover on top of the zun is held in place with an old piece of rusted iron wire that is obviously not original, but it has held the small cover in place for many years. There are no apparent repairs or restorations on this lovely zun and it appears to remain in as found condition when it was reportedly found by a Chinese farmer over 50 years ago. The beauty and value are not comparable to this ancient ritual bronze that is about 3,000 years old. This 3,000 year-old ritual bronze vessel contains at least 30 inscriptions that were cast into this bronze zun when it was created.
The pictographic characters on these Zhou Dynasty bronzes are the earliest form of a written language in ancient China. Modern archeologists call these early pictograms Oracle Bone Script as they have been found as a permanent record that was written by scribes on both oracle bones and on ritual bronze artifacts.
As stated above, only some of the bronze oxidation has been professionally removed by the previous collector in order to be able to read the wonderful pictographic characters (called Oracle Script) that tell us why this bronze vessel was created and for whom. To the best of my humble skills, here is a literal translation of some of the Oracle Bone Script characters (pictograms) that appear cast into this bronze rhino zun. The rhino appears to have the ancient, Chinese oracle-bone character for rhinoceros (Xi) cast into the left side of the rhinos leg, just above his left foot.This early Zhou Dynasty character for rhinoceros is a pictographic representation of the fierce rhino, whose hide was highly valued by Zhou warlords for use as armor on its military generals. Above the rhinos right leg, is the character for a mans name. The presence of the ancestor to whom the offering is made. The figure for ceremonial grass (called tow), for it was the ritual custom to pour the libation of wine on the grass, spread out or tied in a bundle, which was then burned after the ceremony was over. There were many different figures used to denote a bundle of grass and sometimes it was graphically reduced to a I or even just a +. A bronze wine vessel (a zun) offered to the ancestors.
A small triangle, which signifies sight of the persons ancestor. The character for day and month, which would document when the event happened to commemorate. I cannot read the day, as it is covered by bronze corrosion. The Zhou recorded time in terms of the rituals they offered to their ancestors; these five rituals were performed over a period of months, until by the end of the Zhou Dynasty the entire cycle of five rituals took 360 days. The Rhinoceros in Ancient China.
It is likely this rhinoceros vessel would have be entombed as a funeral/tomb offering with a military general or warlord of the 7. Rank, who would have used the rhinos thick hide as armor to protect himself in battle. Thus, the rhino, a fierce and powerful animal, would also symbolize the leaders protection for the journey to the eternal afterlife. In ancient China, the rhinoceros was the symbol for military officials who held both the 7.
Rank, which is the lowest officer ranking. Unicorn or Qilin Generals of the 1st rankthe highest rank. Lion - Military Officials of the 2nd rank. Leopard - Military official of the 3rd rank.Tiger - Military official of the 4th rank. Tiger Cat Biao - Military official of the 6th rank.
Rhinoceros - Military official of the 7/8th rank. Today, the five surviving species of rhinoceros are found mainly in the tropical regions of Africa, India, Sumatra and Java. Yet rhinoceros bones found in Chinese Neolithic sites of six thousand years ago clearly indicate that rhinos flourished in both north and south China at that time. During the Bronze Age, when the climate of northern China was warmer than it is at present, various species of Asian rhinoceros were known, including the two-horned Sumatran (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and the one-horned Javan (Rhinoceros sondaicus). There is an ancient character si which appears in many oracle bone inscriptions and some ritual bronze vessels like this zun that shows an animal pictogram (character) with one large variegated horn on its head.Material evidence of this ancient Chinese familiarity with the rhinoceros is found in the form of two Shang Dynasty bronze vessels now in Beijing. One example is a late Shang bronze you in the Palace Museum, with a bail handle terminating at either end in a realistic two-horned rhino head. The second vessel, a bronze zun , from Shandong Province, in the Museum of Chinese History, is cast in the shape of a two-horned rhinoceros and shows a fine attention to anatomical detail, including the three toes on each foot. During Shang and Zhou times the rhinoceros was captured and killed mainly for its tough, thick skin. When dried, this became extremely hard and provided excellent protection against bronze weapons.
Rhinoceros hide was considered to be the ideal material for making the helmets, body armor and shields commonly worn by soldiers throughout the Bronze Age period. As a result of the increasing demand for rhinoceros hide armor during the turbulent Spring and Autumn period and the horrific conflicts of the Warring States period, the indigenous rhinoceros population in China was decimated. The gradual cooling of the climate throughout the Bronze Age probably also affected the rhinos habitat, and caused a southward migration towards Vietnam and Laos, similar to that undertaken by the Saola. But the unprecedented slaughter of the rhinoceros over the many centuries of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty dealt the death blow to the survival of this species in China. As a result, the rhinoceros entered the realm of legend, and came to be considered a mythic beast.Bronze Sacrificial Vessels in Ancient China. The creation of magnificent bronze vessels was highly labor-intensive, and therefore its use was confined to that of the most important rituals of ancient Shang and Zhou kings and aristocrats. The oldest Shang & Zhou dynasty vessels were used in rituals centered on the sacrificial offering of food and wine to ancestors. Like elaborate banquets for the dead, foods which included meats and grains as well as rice or millet wine and sacrificial water were prepared and presented in bronze vessels and then ritually offered at family altars, often located in a separate structure within a family compound. As British scholar, Jessica Rawson, explains.
These were essentially family ceremonies in which both the dead and the living took part. The dead remained an integral part of everyday society, requiring the kind of attention also given to living members of the family. The banquets or rituals were a show of respect to the dead so as to ensure that they would help their descendants by interceding on their behalf with the gods and spirits. Without help from the dead, and a proper acknowledgement of their role, human affairs might fail and their descendants suffer.This was especially so of kings, whose ancestors not only had the power to affect the fortunes of their descendants, but were semi-godlike, having power and influence over the entire population as well. Thus the most elaborate rituals-- more like ceremonies of state than the private rituals held by aristocratic families-- were performed by ancient kings. Highly decorated bronze vessels created in sets played a leading role in these rituals-- containing sacrifices and hosting their preparation.
Is still heavily encrusted with earthen deposits, as well as authentic red and blue-green oxidation of the bronze that was buried for millennia in damp soil that was rich in cuprite, azurite, and malachite. It is in as found condition and has been in a private collection in Hong Kong for at least 50 years. Undocumented reports suggest it was found by farmers in 1938 and has been in private collections since that time. Museums and modern archeological studies usually use the general term copper alloy instead of just the term bronze to describe these ancient treasures, as many other elements (such as tin, lead, zinc, iron, and even arsenic) were added to the copper to form different strengths of types of bronze items. Ancient bronze artifacts such as this zun vessel are probably about 80% copper and 20% tin, while modern bronze is closer to 88% copper and 12% tin.It has a wonderful old, patina that is absolutely fabulous: areas of a blue-green patina from the azurite and malachite in the surrounding soil. This combination of colors forms a fantastic patina that is typical of bronze that has been buried for over 1,000 years. Close examination with a microscope under natural and black light reveal it to be 100% authentic and cast by hand in a sand mold.
One interesting property of bronze is that once it has oxidized superficially, a copper oxide layer is formed on the surface and essentially protects the object from further damaging corrosion. This protective layer turns in another compound, called copper carbonate for you scientists out there, which protects most bronze pieces from further corrosion. I have carefully examined this item under magnification and it shows authentic and original signs of weathering and ground contact that help to further authenticate it as an ancient piece. It shows minor oxidation and is in very good condition. You will not be disappointed!
It is a museum quality, ancient Chinese work of art. It is a wonderful piece and would look great displayed next to your other fine ancient Chinese jade and bronze pieces! Museum of Chinese History, Beijing.The Ancestral Landscape , David N. The Great Bronze Age of China , edited by Wen Fong, MET, 1980. Smithsonian Museum, Sackler & Freer Gallery, WDC. It will come with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from Ancient Civilizations. The item "RARE Ancient Chinese Bronze Rhinoceros Wine Storage Vessel (Zun) W. Zhou Dyn" is in sale since Thursday, March 21, 2019. This item is in the category "Antiques\Asian Antiques\China\Other Chinese Antiques". The seller is "houghton-usa" and is located in Sequim, Washington. This item can be shipped to United States.