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Jue wine cup


Artwork Details

Jue wine cup
circa 1300 BCE - circa 1100 BCE
cast bronze with green patina
7 1/2 in. x 6 5/16 in. x 3 9/16 in. ( 19 cm x 16 cm x 9 cm )
The Oliver J. Todd Memorial Collection


The "chüeh" cup was the main drinking utensil during the Bronze Age. It was found in the tomb paired with the "ku" wine container. How this type of cup was used is still not clear. The long spout is impractical for drinking. The function of the two knobs on the rim is also undetermined.
Metalworking emerged around 2000 BCE in China, with bronze vessels appearing around 1600 to 1500 BCE in what is known as the Shang dynasty (DATES). Shang society followed the Neolithic societies of Northern China and is the first historically recorded civilization of China. Chinese writing was invented by the Shang and the short inscriptions they left on oracle bones and bronze vessels, along with extensive excavations, show a complex and highly organized society headed by a king and his family, administered by officials, and serviced by craftsmen, slaves, and prisoners of war. The dynasty occupied three capitals in Henan province, the last of which, Anyang, (ca. 1300-1050 BCE) was located south of present-day Beijing. It was in Anyang that some of the world’s greatest masterpieces of bronze art came into being.
The jue drinking cup is probably the earliest vessel type to be cast in bronze. Its eccentric shape, with two large knobs on the lip and a long spout that seems impractical for drinking, is derived from pottery cups of the late Neolithic period. Bronze casters also depended on the older ceramic industry’s knowledge of high temperatures and kiln environments to control the smelting and pouring of bronze metal (an alloy of copper and tin). Potters also made the ceramic piece-moulds required to create the form and decoration of their bronze vessels and weapons.
(Label for UMMA Chinese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject Matter:

The “jue” cup was the main drinking utensil during the Bronze Age. It is found in a tomb paired with the “gu” wine container. The earliest known “jue” were cast from multipart piece molds. The form of the vessel is complex, and the lack of symmetry is relatively unusual among ritual bronzes. Unlike other tripod food and wine vessels, the three legs of the “jue” are not evenly spaced around the bottom, instead, the two legs opposite the handle are a little closer together and a little more vertical. To balance the handle visually as well as to support its weight the leg under it is slightly longer and sticks out at more of an angle. How this type of cup was used and the function of the two knobs on the rim is still not clear. The long spout is impractical for drinking.

Physical Description:

Bronze oval cup with a rounded base supported on three slender legs of triangular cross section; each leg tapers to a point. The vessel has one loop handle attached to the side, a long pouring spout with a U-shaped channel on one side balanced by a pointed tail on the other, and a pair of capped finials rise from the rim. The piece has a rich green patina and minimal surface decoration.

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