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Covered ding vessel
Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–9 CE)
Lacquered gray clay
H. 19.2 cm, W. 26.3 cm
Excavated 1972, Tomb M4, Yinqueshan, Linyi County
Collection of Shandong Provincial Museum
(cat. #5)


Similar in form to the inscribed bronze covered ding (cat. no. 4), this gray clay version has a squat spherical body, three short cabriole legs, two solid square handles, and three solid comma-shaped handles or feet perched on the cover. While the body of the ding was wheel thrown, the legs and handles have been mold cast or hand modeled. Red-brown lacquer was applied to the outside and inside surfaces of the vessel after firing, creating a shiny metallic-like surface.[1] Some of the earliest fragments of pottery with red lacquer designs were excavated from Shang dynasty tombs.[2] Although never very popular in China, lacquered pottery continued to be manufactured through at least the Han dynasty. A number of Han tombs contained lacquered pottery with surfaces painted in red, red-brown, and black.[3]

This lacquered ding was excavated from Tomb M4 at Yinqueshan in Linyi county. One of two important Western Han tombs discovered in this area, M4 yielded twenty-one examples of lacquered vessels. The ding was accompanied by he covered boxes, hu vases, pan basins, and yi ewers.[4]




all text & images © China Institute Gallery


1. The Chinese excavation report refers to this kind of pottery as “lacquer-clad” to distinguish it from traditional lacquer with a wood or hemp cloth core. Shandong sheng bowuguan and Linyi wenwu zu, “Linyi Yinqueshan sizuo Xi-Han mucang” [Four Western Han tombs at Yinqueshan, Linyi county], Kaogu, no. 6 (1975), p. 364.

2. Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989), p. 25.

3. Ibid., p. 34. See also the early Western Han site in the Xiangyang area in Hubei; Kaogu, no. 2 (1982), p. 151; p. 154, fig. 10:5 and plate 1:1,2,6.

4. See Shandong sheng bowuguan, “Linyi Yinqueshan,” pp. 363–72, 351, plates 6–10. For a translation of the site report, see Albert E. Dien, Jeffrey K. Riegel, and Nancy T. Price, eds., Chinese Archaeological Abstracts, 3: Eastern Zhou to Han (Los Angeles: The Institute of Archaeology, The University of California, 1985), pp. 1094–1109.

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