On loan from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kansas City, Missouri
Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BCE)
Early 10th century BCE

Bronze ritual vessels were often found in burials and made up an important part of the grave furnishings. These vessels emphasize China’s reverence for the past. They were made for storing, preparing, and serving food and wine offered to ancestral spirits, who were worshipped as mediators between the gods and the living. During the early Shang Dynasty, families made such offerings to placate the spirits of the dead, thus enhancing the likelihood that blessings and good fortune would be bestowed upon their descendants. By the late Zhou Dynasty, clans continued to revere their ancestors as part of their heritage, but more often they made offerings to commemorate their daily life success.