Hsi Tsun: Wine Vessel
Sung Dynasty, A.D. 960-1279
This is a Hsi Tsun vessel from the Sung Dynasty in China around A.D. 960- 1279. This wine vessel is fashioned in the shape of a cow with a small, hinged lid with a decorative knob in the center of the back that opens into a hollow compartment inside the animal. It has a spout at the animal’s mouth for pouring and is incised decorative with swirling patterns along the sides.
This type of vessel would have been used to hold offerings to ancestors to provide for them and evoke their help in interceding with the gods for a living person. They were highly revered for their craftsmanship and rarity and would have only been used for ceremonial purposes. It is possible that this vessel was made especially as a grave good for a noble and was meant to hold wine as an offering for the dead.
During this time the grip of Buddhist ideas that had spread over Chinese culture was beginning to be questioned by some people. Buddhism offered many unanswerable problems for the Chinese people and so there was a revival of the older religions. Neo-Confucianism regained power amongst the Chinese royalty. Neo-Confucianism included aspects of Buddhism, Taoism, and ancestor worship and so ritual bronzes were still being used around this time. There were different types of vessels for different offerings. Generally there were three types of offerings that would be put in a bronze vessel; food, wine, or water. This Hsi Tsun vessel most likely held wine. [Katrina Kassis]