Elephant-shaped bronze zun vessel from the Shang Dynasty

Updated: Oct 9, 2023 Print
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A side view of the Shang Dynasty elephant-shaped bronze zun vessel [Photo/Official website of the Hunan Museum]

This elephant-shaped bronze zun vessel was in its day a wine container, with the trunk serving as a spout. Through the oval-shaped opening on its back, wine can be poured in. Dating back to the Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century), it was of artistic and practical value.

A phoenix and a tiger are cast at the very tip of the trunk, while the elephant’s forehead features a pair of spiral snake patterns. Dragon and beast mask patterns adorn the whole vessel, reflecting the magnificent and unique craftsmanship of that time.

Unearthed from Liling county, Zhuzhou city, Hunan province, in 1975, the vessel is believed to have been essential to sacrificial rituals more than 3,000 years ago. It is now in the permanent collection of the Hunan Museum.

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