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Asian Art

Wine Beaker (Gu)

ca. 12th century B.C.E.


9 7/16 × 5 1/2 in. (24 × 14 cm)
Gift of Jonathan A. Wright in honor of Arthur F. and Mary Clabaugh Wright
Many Chinese ritual bronze shapes can be traced to earlier examples in pottery, including the tall beaker (gu), which held rice wine. Access to such vessels during the Shang dynasty was limited to rulers and the elite, who used them to communicate with ancestors in ceremonies, and as goods for their tombs. The number and types of vessels placed in a tomb were marks of status, and gu beakers were among the most ubiquitous. The gu shape remained important throughout Chinese history, and vessels in the shape were made in bronze, clay, and jade. Over time, the gu became a display item and a flower vase, though the allusion to its earlier ritual function endured.
On view
Shang dynasty (1600–1046 B.C.E.), Anyang phase (ca. 1300–1046 B.
Containers - Metals

Prof. Arthur F. Wright (1913–1976) and Prof. Mary C. Wright (1917–1970), Collection, Guilford, Conn.; by inheritance, Jonathan A. Wright (born 1952) Florence, Mass.; gift in 2000 to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

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.