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Updated: Mar 22, 2019 Print

Cauldron (ding) : Used for cooking meat. A cauldron can be round or rectangular in shape. Typically, a round cauldron is supported by three legs and has two handles facing each other, while a rectangular cauldron stands on four legs with a pair of handles erected on opposite sides at the edges. "Set cauldrons" (lie ding) refers to a group of cauldrons of set numbers and similar shapes either in graduated sizes or of the same size. Bronze cauldrons evolved from pottery cauldrons of the Neolithic era. In the Shang and Zhou dynasties the vessels were emblems of social class and symbols of political power, imbued with significant social meanings.


Tripod cauldron (ding), late Western Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-771 BC), collection of Shanghai Museum



Rectangular cauldron (ding), late Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC), collection of National Museum of China 


Lobed Tripod Cauldron (li): A lobed tripod cauldron highly resembles a tripod cauldron (yuan ding) except for its hollow legs which gave the vessel a broader area for heating. Those made in the early Shang Dynasty (c.16th century - 11th century BC) are basically without handles (also known as "ears"), while in the latter half of the Shang, paired handles were attached to the vessel beneath the mouth. Rectangular lobed tripod cauldrons (fang li) emerged in the Western Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century -771 BC).


Lobed tripod cauldron (li), mid Western Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-771 BC), collection of the Palace Museum 


Steamer (yan): The steamer consists of two sections: the upper section is a deep bowl (zeng) with a pierced bottom for holding the food while the lower section is similar to a lobed tripod cauldron (li) and is used to contain water. Once the water is heated, the hot steam it constantly generates rises through the pierced bottom of the deep bowl to heat and cook the food.


Steamer (yan) decorated with animal mask motifs, late Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC), collection of the Palace Museum 


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