Tripod vessels with bulging legs were one of the main categories of Neolithic ceramic in ancient China. The bulbous body would have held water or food to be cooked over a flame. The large surface area would have ensured that heat reached all parts of the food inside the vessel. This kind of pottery vessel inspired many of the later bronze vessels, which were cast as ritual food containers by the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
Tripod vessel, li Neolithic (about 4500-2000 BC) © Compton Verney
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