Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Ritual wine vessel, or you, with taotie pattern and handles in the form of animal heads

  • loan



  • taotie

    Stylized monster mask decoration with prominent eyes and scrolling horns. The motif has been known since the 1100s. Its significance remains mysterious.


    • currently in research collection

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.


Publications online

  • The Barlow Collection by the University of Sussex

    The Barlow Collection

    The vessel has a pear-shaped body, wide, nearly straight neck, high flared foot and two loops on either side fitted with a curved swing handle with animal-head terminals. The domed cover has a tall cylindrical section to hold it in place and a flared ring knob, pierced with two holes. Cover and shoulder are decorated with a matching band of taotie design, with four masks, the front and back ones centred on raised flanges. The masks are highly stylized, with high-relief eyes and other features dissolved into curl motifs, arranged in a triple band and enclosed between ring borders. There is further a raised line above the band on the cover and below the one on the shoulder. The foot shows a simpler scroll border with motifs arranged in a double band, interspersed with four raised eye-like bosses. The handle is decorated with elongated hooked motifs and bosses, the animal heads have short thick horns with side hooks, long pointed ears, and eyes, skin folds and muzzle rendered in relief. A four-pictograph inscription is cast on the base inside the vessel and repeated, differently arranged, inside the cover. The piece has a thick patina in different tones of green, with patches of malachite around the inscription inside the cover.

    The inscriptions consist of the pictograph of a kneeling woman and another in form of a square and two triangles, together with the characters fu xin (‘father xin’).

© 2013 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum