previous image | Main Exhibition | next image

Chariot fitting—rein guard, yi
Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–9 CE)
Bronze with gold and silver inlay
Diam. (outside) 6 cm, Diam. (inside) 4 cm
Excavated 1996, No. 1 Chariot, Shuangrushan, Changqing County
Collection of Changqing County Museum
(cat. #30)


This solid bronze ring, called a yi, has been flattened along one segment of its outer circumference, creating a flat oval base that allows the ring to be attached at a right angle to parts of the chariot to channel the reins from the horse to the driver in the chariot box.[1] These rings are usually positioned on the yoke bar at the base of the horse’s neck and in the center of the support across the front of the chariot box (for diagram of chariot, see appendix 1). With these guards or channels, the reins can run from the horse’s head to the yoke bar and chariot box without getting caught, obstructed, or tangled, permitting the driver to steer.

The ring, beautifully inlaid with gold and silver, shows fluent curvilinear designs combining tight spirals, scrolls with whimsical animal-like attributes, and undulating bands with curled hooks. The design is arranged symmetrically as mirror images on either side of the ring with the center placed just opposite the flat base and marked by two curled bands and tight spirals. The spiral cluster repeats as the bands curl, uncurl, and overlap on the ring. These designs have the same painterly fluency, inspired by fourth- to third-century BCE painted lacquer patterns from south China, as the four inlaid rings (cat. no. 29) discussed earlier. [2]

all text & images © China Institute Gallery


1. For the term yi, see Barbieri-Low, “Wheeled Vehicles,” Table 2, p. 89.

2. Warring States mirrors from the 4th to 3rd century BCE also show similar painterly fluency. See Chou, Circles of Reflection, nos. 5–8, pp. 27–29.

previous image | Main Exhibition | next image