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Jue or Libation Cup

Abstract

Late Shang period to early Western Zhou is often referred to as the 'Period of Brilliance' that marks the high point of Chinese Bronze Age, due to a relatively stability created by central political power. It was the era where the Jue form of ritual wine-drinking vessels was most encountered. The strong sense of spirituality and the feeling of peace of the time are well expressed in this remarkable Jue. Jue is one of the ritual wine-drinking bronze vessels for the elite class, exclusively in sacrifices and rituals. It was used to warm wine for libation. The stiff and compact body carries a sense of refrainment with a flat bottom, supported by three blade-shaped legs. The raised tail and restrained spout transform the Jue to a lively upright bird ready to soar upwards. The short rectangular posts are flat on the outer face and rounded on the inner face; they are uneven because one had been broken and insecurely mended with some white substance. The fractured joints between the body and the post caps indicate that they were casted separately. They stand on opposite sides of the rim, holding conical finials bearing a whirligig pattern carved in sunken incised lines; less visible on one post, due to heavy corrosion. The limited decoration of the vessel focuses on the upper section of the body with a narrow and single register, ornamented with a tiger motif rising from the background of dense spirals lei-wen (or 'thunder pattern'). It is bordered with a small repetitive circle motif and bisected by a flat handle, accentuated by a head of an archaic dragon. As part of the late Shang bronze ornaments, this combination of abstract animal figurative, geometrical form, and the lei-wen, almost always represents the conjuration of a cosmological myth. There are visible flaws on the ornament band and behind the handle. The seams are more visible on the outer faces, especially at the band of decoration. The Jue projects a sense of fierceness and reverent awe, due to the effects of the restrained decoration and the simplicity of the design. Prehistoric bronzes, as in the case of this vessel, were mostly found from large hoards or graves, evidently indicated on the inner and outer surfaces covered with emerald-green patina and traces of earthy incrustation. Its exceptional exquisiteness lies in the sense of austerity in shape and design, the aesthetic sense of technical gaucherie and the rough encrustation of beautiful emerald-green patina on the surface formed during centuries of burial.

Note

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Acknowledgement to be given to the ASIANetwork-Luce Asian Art in the Undergraduate Curriculum Project and to the college from whose collection the work comes. The individual college retains copyright to the work.

Administrative Notes

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Acknowledgement to be given to the ASIANetwork-Luce Asian Art in the Undergraduate Curriculum Project and to the college from whose collection the work comes. The individual college retains copyright to the work.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Gettysburg College
PID
coccc:24071