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Ritual Wine Cup (Zhi)

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This elaborate set of wine vessels provides an idea of the splendor of Shang and early Zhou rituals. The set is said to have come from a tomb uncovered in 1901; shortly thereafter, it entered the collection of Duan Fang, a senior Manchu official and preeminent antiquarian of the late Qing period. The vessels vary in style and execution. Eleven are inscribed. Two groups share identical inscriptions: two wine containers (nos. 2, 3) and the tall wine container (no. 4); and the small trumpet-shaped wine beaker (no. 11) and one cup (no. 5). A partial reconstruction of the set\u2019s arrangement in the tomb may be established from corrosion outlines on the three principle vessels\u2014nos. 2, 3, and 4\u2014etched onto the surface of the altar table. The diagram shows a hypothetical arrangement of the remaining vessels. Even if this grouping is accurate, the disparate inscriptions and vessel styles remain unexplained. Created around the time of the Zhou conquest of the Shang and clearly by different foundries, the set may represent the accumulated wealth of a family shrine.

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