Ku (wine cup) with a design of a taotie (a mysterious beast mask)


Period China, Shang dynasty, 13th - 11th century B.C.
Materials and techniques Bronze
Size H.30.4 MD.16.3 BD.8.9


The bronze wine-drinking vessel known as ku appeared from mid-Shang dynasty China. Ku cups and other bronze wine vessels from the Shang dynasty are rich in shape and number. This vessel made of thin bronze dates back to the late-Shang dynasty. It has an elegant curving line from the trumpet mouth to the slender body down to the spreading foot. Relief work of mysterious animal masks with large eyes, known as taotie, occupies almost the entire surface of the geometric scroll patterns. The ku is thought to have been intended for holding wine offered to ancestral spirits and deities.

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