The mouth of the zun vessel is wide, and the shoulder is broad. The body of the vessel is decorated gorgeously with three sets of what is known as animal-mask designs (shoumian wen) as a background of meandering patterns. Meanwhile, the prominent rams' heads are vivid and presented with exaggerated faces. These features add to the dignified style of the work.
The vessel's round foot is elongated and embellished with two lines of convex string patterns and three isometric holes in the upper register; these features are typical of Shang-period bronze vessels. The overall composition of patterns is complicated and varied yet neatly arranged. This work is the largest of similar vessels discovered in China.
The bronze vessel was completed after two castings. First, the body was cast with the holes to affix the rams' heads as embellishments at their corresponding sites on the shoulder. Subsequently, a pottery mold was set at those holes and passages in order to cast the rams' heads. This complicated process reveals the technical expertise of the ancient Chinese 3,000 years ago and serves as a testament to the advanced level of bronze-casting skills of the period. This zun vessel was manufactured in the late Shang dynasty approximately around the thirteenth century BCE.


  • Title: Three-Ram Zun Vessel
  • Physical Dimensions: height: 52 cm, mouth diameter: 41.2 cm, weight: 51.3 kg
  • Type: bronze
  • Dynasty: Late Shang dynasty (ca. 1600-1028 BCE)

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