Pottery Basin with Human Face and Fish Patterns


China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document

This painted basin is a Neolithic treasure, unearthed in 1955 in Banpo village of Shaanxi province, the Banpo historical site. Banpo-type culture is an important branch of early Yangshao Culture, which originated 5000-6000 years ago in the Neolithic Period in the middle reaches of the Yellow River. Such basins with fish motifs are the most representative of the cultural relics of Banpo-type Yangshao Culture.

The Banpo people lived in communities along rivers, making a living by farming and fishing. That’s why most of the painted pottery evacuated at the Banpo site feature motifs of fish and water ripples.

The interior wall of this pottery basin made of red earth is painted two sets of symmetrical, black-glazed human face-and-fish motifs. It is believed that this basin served as a child’s coffin cover, and therefore that the patterns combing human face and fish are related to primitive Banpo religious symbolism. In Banpo culture, children who died young were buried in the surrounding of their parents’ house instead of public cemetery. Maybe that’s because the parents were unwilling to see their beloved children to leave home, resting alone in the wild.

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  • Title: Pottery Basin with Human Face and Fish Patterns
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Provenance: National Museum of China
  • Physical format: Pottery,16.5h x 39.5d cm
  • Medium: red pottery with colored motifs
  • Dynastic period: Neolithic Period
  • Artist's birth and death date: 5000 BC.-3000 BC.