Bell (bo) with birds and dragons; from a set of four


Historical period(s)
late Spring and Autumn period, Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 500--450 BCE
H x W: 66.4 x 47 cm (26 1/8 x 18 1/2 in) Weight: 62 kg (136.7 lb)
China, Shanxi province, State of Jin, Houma foundry
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 25: RESOUND: Bells of Ancient China
Metalwork, Musical Instrument


bell, bird, casting, China, dragon, Eastern Zhou dynasty (770 - 221 BCE), Spring and Autumn period (770 - 476 BCE), WWII-era provenance

From 1939 to 1941
C.T. Loo & Company, New York from at least March 1939 [1]

From 1941
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C.T. Loo & Company on September 29, 1941 [2]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 81926a: "Bell (chung) Bottom decorated by a panel of turning dragons pattern. Large bosses formed by coiled snakes separated by registers of intertwined dragons motives. Handle formed by 2 birds, swallowing the tail with spreaded wings over an intertwined snakes pattern. Rough green patina. Late Chou," Frank Caro Archive, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, copy in object file. The object was sent to the Freer Gallery for examination on May 2, 1939.

[2] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated September 29, 1941, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

C.T. Loo & Company active 1908-1950


The elaborate d&‌eacute;cor of this bell--winged creatures form its suspension loop and coiled serpents serve as bosses (raised decorations)--underscores the exalted status of bronze bells, which were a luxury restricted to China's early rulers and elite. Most bells belonged to tuned sets of bell-chimes, an instrument invented in China. They were suspended from a rack and struck by a mallet. When this object was cast, bell music was no longer purely ritual in purpose but was also considered entertainment in feudal courts. Owning a set of bells was thought to bring great happiness to a family.

Published References
  • Jenny So. Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. 3 New York, 1995. p. 377, 447, fig. 77.4, M43.
  • compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. pp. 7, 64-65, pl. 34-35.
  • Grace Dunham Guest A.G. Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 4.
  • Dr. Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 45, fig. 38.
  • Noel Barnard. Bronze Casting and Bronze Alloys in Ancient China. Monumenta serica, no. 14 Canberra. pl. 29.
  • Chugoku bijutsu (Chinese Art in Western Collections). 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. fig. 72.
  • Hai wai i chen (Chinese Art in Overseas Collections). Taipei, 1985. vol. 2, p. 125.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama (alt. spelling: In-sho seidoki to gyoku) (Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China). Tokyo. pls. 152-153.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu (A Complete Collection of World Art). 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 81-82.
  • Michael Sullivan. The Arts of China., 3rd ed. Berkeley. p. 45.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 262.
  • George W. Weber Jr. The Ornament of Late Chou Bronzes: A Method of Analysis. New Brunswick. pl. 52.
  • Dagny Carter. Four Thousand Years of China's Art. New York. pp. 48-49.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum