Ritual Wine Container (Lei)
Chinese, Eastern Zhou Dynasty
Ritual Wine Container (Lei), 8th-7th century B.C.
Gift of Mrs. F. Harold Daniels
With loop handles cast onto its wide shoulders and a broad, everted mouth rim, this flat-bottomed ritual bronze vessel is thought to have held wine. Its shape evolved from that of pottery in the late Western Zhou period (1111-770 B.C.). The decoration, organized in two bands of large, interlocking dragons, heralds a change in taste in the early Eastern Zhou dynasty. In the following centuries such designs became denser and more regular in their arrangement of complex, repeated abstract patterns. That the decoration may not have had specific symbolic meaning can be inferred from inscriptions on some Zhou bronzes indicating that they commemorated military victories and gifts of land or titles.