This sophisticated and carefully made tripod vessel, known as a ding, is of a size usual for a noble member of the Shang élite. The animal face, taotie, design is clearly rendered, and strongly presented against the background of angular scrolls, also known as leiwen, or ‘thunder pattern’. The face can also be read as two confronted dragons each seen in profile with long sharply rising tails. We do not know whether such complex designs had symbolic meanings.
Ritual food vessel, ding Late Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 BC), about 1200 BC © Compton Verney
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