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Bronze Chinese Zhou Dynasty Gourd Shaped Ladle (Yi)

(1100BC -771BC)


A early bronze footed ladle, called a Yi, probably from the Western Zhou Dynasy, (26 cm long).  A Yi was a bronze vessel used for pouring water to wash hands, mainly on a banquet or before a sacrificial ritual. "Yi" is an archaic term for a ladle for pouring water when washing one's hands. It was derived from a type of drinking vessel called "he". "Yi" first appeared in the mid-Western Zhou Dynasty and was widely used in the late Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period. The yi ladles of the Spring and Autumn Period were oval-shaped, with an opening in the front and a basin at the back; some had a lid; most "yi" had four legs, with some having three legs or no leg at all.





The Yi is of simple design in the shape of an animal. The front legs are in the shape of sheep calves with a single central rear leg. There are decorative marks around the mouth and two ear like protrusions, and a ringed tail. The vessel is thin and light weight, characteristic of bronzes of early bronzes.