Lacquer Tripod with Cloud Design

Western Han Dynasty ( ca.206 B.C.-ca.9A.D.)

Hunan Provincial Museum

Hunan Provincial Museum
Changsha, China

This food container is made on a thick wooden base that was shaped by trimming. Its slightly expanded mouth acts as a snap fastener with the lid. It features a swelling belly, a world-like bottom, two upright loop handles, three paw-like cabriole legs, and a dome-shaped lid with three knobs. The surface is coated with black lacquer and painted with phoenix and cloud designs in vermilion and grayish green colors. The smooth and fluent lines of the design evoke a romantic air. The interior of the vessel is coated with vermilion lacquer.
Seven lacquer ding of the same size and shape were excavated from Tomb No.1. One ding still contained a small amount of soup and slices of lotus root, which after 2,100 years were clearly discernible. A more puzzling thing is that the slices of lotus root continuously diminished with each move of the tripod and with each added minute when they were exposed to air, and by the time the tripod was moved to the museum the slices had all miraculously disappeared. Why then had these slices of lotus root remained undecayed after being soaked in liquid for over 2,100 years but disappeared soon after they were unearthed? Experts explained that the fibers inside those clearly visible slices of lotus root when unearthed had in fact decayed, leaving behind only some seemingly complete external forms. The oxidization process after they were unearthed and the unavoidable shake when the tripod was taken out caused the quick dissolution of these slices of lotus root. This indicates that the Changsha region has very rarely been hit by big earthquakes. Otherwise, if there have been frequent earthquakes (with an occasional big one), either the tripod would have collapsed or the slices of lotus root would have been dissolved long ago.


  • Title: Lacquer Tripod with Cloud Design
  • Date: Western Han Dynasty ( ca.206 B.C.-ca.9A.D.)
  • Type: lacquer ware
  • Rights: Hunan Provincial Museum
  • External Link: Hunan Provincial Museum

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