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  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1200 BC-1100 BC (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze, cast

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support, the Vallentin Bequest, Sir Percival David and the Universities China Committee

  • Museum number:

    M.5:1, 2-1935

  • Gallery location:

    China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery, case 9 []

This figure of an owl represents a type of ritual bronze vessel called zun, used for storing wine in tombs in order that the dead could continue offering sacrifices to the gods and ancestors. Bronze was one of the most important of the many materials used for grave goods. Good burials showed gratitude to the spirits of the universe and established the reputation of the dead ones in the afterworld.

Physical description

Bronze container in the form of an owl, with a removeable head. The short-eared owl stands on its four-toed feet without support. The plumage details are partly seal pattern, partly thunder-scroll diaper, with a monster mask on the breast and an ox-headed serpent outlining the border of each wing.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1200 BC-1100 BC (made)



Materials and Techniques

Bronze, cast


Height: 21 cm

Descriptive line

Bronze vessel (zun), 1200-1100 BC, Shang dynasty, Chinese.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935-6, London : Royal Academy of Arts, 1935

Labels and date

Wine vessel
Shang dynasty
1250-1050 BC

This wine vessel is shaped like an owl.

Cast bronze

Museum no. M.5-1935 [2007]




East Asia Collection

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