Standing Owl

Standing Owl

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

Birds are often found on Shang dynasty objects such as oracle bones as well as bronze, jade and marble artifacts. The Standing Owl is in the collection of the IHP. It is an owl-shaped object carved from marble and was excavated from tomb no. 1001, which was the king of the Shang dynasty’s tomb, at the Ruins of Yin (Yinxu) in Anyang, Henan. The owl is 17.1 cm high and weighs 2.5 kg.

This masterpiece of a Shang dynasty carving demonstrates the remarkable skill of the craftsman: with its beak in the shape of a sharp hook, feet rounded and upright, and body covered with various motifs, it is delicate and captivating. The artifact was designated a “national treasure” by the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan (R.O.C.) in 2009.

National Treasure Appreciation

The front side of the Standing Owl is in the form of a flat, rounded head with a curved beak like a hook and a slightly convex belly. The whole body is covered with elaborate patterns.
The front of the ears is decorated with insect motifs.
The chest has a symmetrical bird pattern.
The front side of the feet has an incised inscription.

On the back of the Standing Owl, the owl’s spine is decorated with cicada patterns, and several simplified dragon patterns are on each side, while the rear tail feathers are each embellished with kui dragons.

On the sides of the Standing Owl, the pointed tail of the owl is hanging down, the wings are decorated with simplified dragon patterns, and the head and feet are both embellished with kui dragons.

A view looking down at the Standing Owl.


    1. National Cultural Heritage Database Management System
    2. Archaeodata
    3. Li Yung-ti, ed. Catalogue of Excavated Artifacts from Yinxu. Taipei: Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 2009.
    4. Chen Yung-Fa, ed. Selected Digital Collections of Academia Sinica. Taipei: Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 2012.


The year 1928 saw the establishment of the Institute of History and Philology (IHP) in Guangzhou, China. In the winter of 1948, the IHP relocated to Taiwan, and in 1954, settled in its current location in Nangang. The IHP is a multidisciplinary research institute with research areas covering history, archaeology, anthropology, and philology. The IHP’s achievements are highly valued in both domestic and international academic circles.

The IHP has a collection of more than 140,000 artifacts. These include more than 120,000 archaeological artifacts excavated and collected when the Institute was in China; more than 10,000 Han dynasty wooden slips from Edsen-gol; and more than 1,000 Chinese ethnographic artifacts. In addition, there is also the archives of the Grand Secretariat that has approximately 310,000 archival documents from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

In 1986, the Museum of the Institute of History and Philology was completed to showcase the collection of the IHP. One of the missions of the Museum is to transcend how traditional exhibition formats display their artifacts or fine works, as well as attaching importance to related research efforts and results. The content of the Museum’s exhibitions includes artifacts excavated from tombs of the Shang and Zhou dynasties as well as the Warring States period, Han dynasty wooden slips from Edsen-gol, rare texts, materials contained in the archives of the Grand Secretariat, artifacts from ethnic groups of Southwest China, ink rubbings, and Taiwanese archaeological data and findings. Through the presentation of these artifacts and various educational activities, the IHP shares its latest findings with the broader public.

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By using the Taiwan glossary available on the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT-Taiwan),
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