Rectangular Vessel with Crane and Lotus Designs

The Palace Museum

The Palace Museum
Beijing, China

The large vessel includes a cover, long neck, wide body, and feet. The cover is designed as two layers of blooming lotus petals. A crane stands atop the cover at the center. On each side of the neck, a dragon-shaped creature serves as a handle. The vessel's four sides are decorated with coiled dragons. A flying dragon clings to each corner of the body. Two tigers serve as the feet of the vessel. They have coiling legs, turning heads, and protruding tongues. The elegant embellishments reveal an innovative design.
During the Spring and Autumn period, bronze-casting arts developed at a rapid pace, and methods like lost-wax casting were invented. The achievements of bronze casting skills also included the development of traditional techniques like sub-casting, which was used to fashion this piece's crane, dragon-shaped handles, and main body. This vessel was unearthed in 1923 in Xinzheng, Henan Province, and was praised by Mr. Guo Moruo as a quintessential work of the Spring and Autumn period.


  • Title: Rectangular Vessel with Crane and Lotus Designs
  • Physical Dimensions: height:122 cm, width: 54 cm, weight: 64 kg
  • Provenance: The Acquisition Process In 1923, this rectangular vessel with crane and lotus designs was unearthed at Lijialou in Xinzheng, Henan Province. When Jin Yun’e, a commander of the Beiyang Army, traveled through Xinzheng, he recovered this and other national treasures that had been stolen and illegally sold and handed them over to the Henan Office of Antiquities Preservation. The treasures were called Ritual Vessels of Xinzheng. On July 7, 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War began. At that critical moment, the Henan Museum selected part of its collection, including the Ritual Vessels of Xinzheng, and transported them in sixty-eight containers from Kaifeng southward to Zhengzhou. The antiques arrived in Wuhan and were preserved temporarily in the French concession. On November 25, 1938, the collections from Henan were transported from Hankou to Chongqing by ship and were preserved at the National Central University. In 1945, the Chinese Civil War erupted shortly after the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the antiquities from Henan remained in Chongqing. In the winter of 1949, the Kuomintang leaders planned to transport all the antiquities of the Henan Museum to Taiwan. Some of the collection was transported to Taiwan by air, while other items were abandoned due to time constraints. The Rectangular Vessel with Crane and Lotus Designs was one of the antiquities abandoned in Chongqing. In 1950, a delegation from Henan Province and representatives from the Ministry of Culture traveled to Chongqing to reclaim the remaining pieces from the Henan Museum not carried away by the Kuomintang. The Ministry of Culture selected fifty-one bronze vessels that had been unearthed in Xinzheng and Hui County and allocated them to the Palace Museum and the National Museum in Beijing. One of the two rectangular vessels with crane and lotus designs was allocated to Beijing and was housed in the Palace Museum, while the other was returned to Henan and preserved in the Henan Museum where it remains to this day.
  • Type: bronzes
  • Dynasty: late Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BCE)

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