Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao

Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

The Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao (also known as the Mao Gong Ding) is a relic of the late Western Zhou dynasty; it is 53.8cm in height, 27.2cm in depth, 47cm in diameter and 34.7kg in weight.

This “ding,” or cauldron, was unearthed during the Daoguang period of the Qing dynasty. After it was accidentally excavated in Qishan County, Shaanxi Province, it quickly became one of the most desired objects for collectors. It was resold several times at the end of the Qing dynasty, among which there were several famous collectors, such as Chen Jie-qi and Duan Fang, and then finally it was acquired by Ye Gong-chuo. In 1937, before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, and before he had fled to Hong Kong, Ye Gong-chuo gave the cauldron to his nephew, Ye Gong-chao, and instructed him, “not to sell it, but to dedicate it to the country one day.” Afterwards, his nephew gave it back to Ye Gong-chuo, however due to economic factors, he gave it to the bank as a guarantee for a loan. Later, it was then bought by Chen Yong-ren, a successful businessman, and he donated it to the Nationalist Government. In 1948, the Nationalist Government brought it with them when they moved to Taiwan, and it became one of the national treasures at the National Palace Museum.

This cauldron has a simple and unsophisticated appearance, but the inscription on the inside has the most detailed historical information about King Xuan of Zhou, which is not available in any other historical source. The title of “national treasure” is well deserved, and in recent years, the Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao, along with the Jadeite Cabbage, and the Meat-Shaped Stone , have become collectively known as the “meat with pickled cabbage hot pot,” which is a feast for the eyes, not the belly. These objects are highly valued by the general public, and are must see objects when visiting the National Palace Museum.

National Treasure Appreciation

The Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao’s appearance is simple, sturdy and thick, with a large mouth and rounded belly. The hemisphere-shaped bowl stands on three hoofed feet, and the mouth of the cauldron is decorated with two thick, vertical handles.

The entire body of the cauldron is plain, decorated with only a linked ring motif decorating the rim. The inscription inside the cauldron is 500 characters, it is the longest known inscription on a bronze vessel.

The thick and heavy handles on the ding (cauldron).

The first part of the Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao inscription describes how, at the beginning of the reign of King Xuan of Zhou, he told his uncle, Mao Gongyin , about the hardships of building the Zhou dynasty and his desire to see the kingdom thrive. The inscription then goes on to state the important positions and valuables bestowed on the Duke of Mao.

The final part of the inscription states that the cauldron was cast in order to record the honor given to the Duke for his descendants.

A stone rubbing of the inscription on the Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao.


    1. Zhang Guangyuan, The Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao of the Western Zhou, Taipei: Zhang Guangyuan, 1973.
    2. The National Palace Museum, The Bell and Cauldron Inscriptions, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2011.
    3. Cai Meifen, Splendid Treasures: A Hundred Masterpieces of the National Palace Museum on Parade, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2011.
    4. You Guoqing, Rituals Cast in Brilliance: Chinese Bronzes Through the Ages, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2015.


The National Palace Museum (NPM) was established on October 10, 1925, when there were tens of thousands of paintings and pieces of calligraphy in the collection of the Qing court, which could be seen in the Forbidden City in Beijing. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the NPM moved its cultural relics to the south of China. The war ended in 1945, however in 1948, because of the ongoing civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT) and Communist Party, the KMT moved the artifacts in the NPM to Taiwan, then temporarily placed them in Beigou, Wufeng, Taichung. Later, a new museum in Waishuangxi, Taipei, started to be built. The new building was completed in August 1965 and formally opened to the public in November. In December 2015, the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi officially opened.

The NPM’s collection of artifacts were inherited from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing courts. Later, the artifacts transported to Taiwan from the Preparatory Department of the National Central Museum were incorporated into the NPM’s collection. The NPM houses hundreds of thousands of collected and acquired artifacts. These have gradually been digitized and are available on the “National Palace Digital Archive.” Some digital image files of artifacts are available on the “Open Data ” and can be used by the public under a Creative Commons license.

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