Asian Art

Jar (Hu) with Musical Scenes

1st–3rd century CE

Bronze, painted with lacquer-like pigments

7 1/4 × 4 5/16 × 4 5/16 in. (18.4 × 11 × 11 cm)
Hobart and Edward Small Moore Memorial Collection, Gift of Mrs. William H. Moore
Alternating figures of musicians and dancers decorate this bronze vessel. The musicians sit side by side, calmly playing their instruments, while the dancers move exuberantly, lifting their arms so their drapery flows dramatically behind them. This scene may depict performers during a ritual in which the souls of the dead were invoked to return to their bodies. The imagery coincides with the function of the vessel itself: as a funerary offering, this “spirit good,” or mingqi vessel, was deposited in a tomb, where the sounds and dances it portrays would have accompanied the dead in the afterlife.
Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 C.E.)
Containers - Lacquer

Ton-ying and Company, New York, 1938; Mrs. William H. Moore (1858–1955), New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Mimi Gardner Gates, The Communion of Scholars: Chinese Art at Yale, exh. cat. (New York: China House Gallery, 1982), 39–41, no. 10, ill.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 285, ill.

Sueji Umehara, “Nirerinfu shutsudo to tsutaeru ichi gun no kansai edagoki,” Yamato Bunka 17 (1955): 76, fig. 9.

Diane M. Nelson, “Bronze “Ming-ch’i” Vessels with Painted Decoration: A Regional Study in Han Pictorialism,” Artibus Asiae 42, no. 2–3 (1980): fig. 27.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.