Description & Technical information

China, Western Han dynasty (206 BC -9 AD)
TL-tested by Oxford, U.K

Resting on a flared, rectangular foot, each side of these wine flask has a moulded a heart-shaped panel. These flasks may have been fitted with ring handles to both shoulders. They appear to have been modelled after the Eastern Zhou bronze flasks(bian hu 扁壶), which in turn were probably following leather prototypes.

By the Han Dynasty, the greater occurrence of drink vessels in burials, suggests that wine may have played an important role in the presumed after-life of the deceased. An inscription on a wine vessel in a Han tomb (Macheng, Hebei), expressing the wishes for a prosperous and long life, seem to reinforce such an assumption.

It is possible that Daoism - which gained greatly in popularity during the Han dynasty – and its preoccupation with the immortality of the soul, may have affected the increased importance of wine in the performance of ancestral rituals. Historical evidence records the many offerings of wine to gods, as a gesture of hospitality and supplication, in Daoist rituals from as early as 141 BC. These were performed by the first organised Daoist schools, the Celestial Masters.

There is a similar bronze examples from the Han dynasty in the Suide County Museum (TD31), Shaanxi Province. For comparable bronze examples dating to the Han dynasty, see the flask in the Suide County Museum (TD31), Shaanxi province. A pottery example was sold in the Breece collection by Christie’s in 2004.

Period:  Antiquity
Origin:  China
Medium: Earthenware
Dimensions: 34 x 36 cm (13³/₈ x 14¹/₈ inches)
Categories: Oriental and Asian Art