Bronze Ritual Square Wine Vessel (hu) with Entwined Dragon Design

Bronze Ritual Square Wine Vessel (hu) with Entwined Dragon Design

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

The Bronze Ritual Square Wine Vessel (hu) with Entwined Dragon Design is in the National Museum of History’s collection, and it is also known as the “Square Vessel with Designs of Animal Ears and Tigers’ Feet” and the “Square Vessel with Designs of Dragons and Tigers on the Side and that of Snakes on Top.” This wine vessel was originally part of a pair. The counterpart of this wine vessel is currently in the collection of Palace Museum, Beijing.

It was excavated from the Prince Zheng tomb in the Central Plains during the Spring and Autumn period, which is now located in Xinzheng, Henan Province, China. It is a famous Chu-style square vessel with dragon-shaped ears. This vessel is a container for wine or water. During the Zhou dynasty, the ritual system was so strict that vessels had to be used in pairs. Square vessels were used by ministers and grand masters for sacrificial feasts. They usually have much more elaborate decorations than other ritual vessels.

In A Comprehensive Examination of Shang and Zhou Dynasty Bronzes, this object was originally recorded as the “Vessel with Animal-shaped Feet.” This vessel is made from bronze with 90.3cm in height and 57cm in depth, having a long neck and corset-shaped waist with a belly that droops down, a circular footrim and an additional turned-down mouth rim with an irregular decoration. Its style is inherited from the culture of the Western Zhou, showing the combined cultural features of Jin and Chu areas. It is similar in shape and decoration to the “Square Vessel with Dragon-shaped Ears and Tigers’ Feet Design” excavated from the Xiasi site in Xichuan County, Henan Province in 1979. The Bronze Ritual Square Wine Vessel represents the ideal Chu-style square vessel with dragon-shaped ears and tiger’s feet design in the Spring and Autumn period. It is of great historical and cultural value, and was designated a national treasure in 2011.

National Treasure Appreciation

The vessel has a rectangular, straight neck, with a thick, broad rim and a lid with latticework coiled snakes. The chest and belly of the vessel are separated by a convex cross.

The outside of the neck is decorated with a chevron pattern and bands of curved convex lines of coiled vipers, while the chest is covered with curved convex lines of coiled vipers.

The belly bulges like the head of a garlic and takes the form of a pendulous belly without any decoration; there are dragon handles on each side and a rectangular footrim; beneath the footrim, there are two tigers supporting the vessel.

A side-on picture of the Square Vessel.

The lid has a latticework coiled snake pattern and is one of the earliest bronzes to be made using the “lost-wax casting” method.

The lid is approximately 7.5cm in height, there are more than 20 pairs of long, s-shaped, interlocking snakes. It is a very vivid and delicate pattern.

On the side of the Square Vessel, there are a pair of latticework-standing dragons with heads turned backwards.

There are two tigers below the round base of the Square Vessel; their bodies are decorated with horn-like motifs.

Their tails are curled, with postures seemingly standing on their backs and heads forward. Their tongues are sticking out, and the tips are slightly curved.


    1. National Cultural Heritage Database Management System
    2. National Museum of History and Henan Museum (editors), Bronzes from the Prince Zheng Tomb, Xinzheng. Taipei: National Museum of History, 2001.
    3. Yang Shih-chao, A Study of the Transformative Style of Spring and Autumn Period Chu Bronzes. Taipei: National Museum of History, 2005.
    4. National Museum of History, Catalogue of the Exquisite Collection in the National Museum of History. Taipei: National Museum of History, 2007.
    5. Yang Shih-chao, A Study of Decorative Elements on the Fang Hu Vases in the Spring and Autumn Period. Taipei: National Museum of History, 2016.


National Museum of History (NMH) was founded in 1955. The first national museum in Taiwan since 1949. The Museum was originally named as the “National Museum of Artifacts and Art”, and then that was changed to current name in 1957.

Two sets of artifacts fromed the bases of the NMH collection, one is the Chinese artifacts plundered during the Sino-Japanese War, and another is the artifacts from the previous Henan Province Museum (today’s Henan Museum). Both sets were transferrd to the MNH by the Ministry of Education. Afterwards, the NHM’s collection accumulated year by year through purchases and enthusiastic donations from all walks of life. To date, there are more than 50,000 artifacts within 19 categories, such as painting, calligraphy, bronze, pottery, etc.

The museum’s collection is rich and diverse, representing various cultural phases,and all these precious materials can be viewed on the“National Museum of History’s Database.”

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