I have asked this question on Chinese Stack Exchange but received no satisfactory answer there so far. I think it is relevant to the History Stack Exchange and will link these two questions together.

There are at least 33 types of ancient sacrificial, wine, food and water ritual bronze vessels of ancient China, none of which are named 壺 (pot), but some of which may fall under the category of being a 壺 (pot).

According to my research the ancient Tang 壺 was a wine vessel (12 types of wine vessels listed above). But seeing as there are so many very precise different kind of ancient vessels, I want to know exactly which wine vessels would fall under the category of being a 壺 (pot) during the Tang dynasty and what it would look like.


For example, I came across this Pot titled 鎏金银嵌宝仿唐壶:

enter image description here

This imitation 唐壶 is very different from the regular spout and handle pots someone suggested on the Chinese Stack Exchange, and on the link I provided above I see that the long spout was a later addition to the pot that was not common previously. So I don't know the EXACT range of styles that the word 壺 encompasses in the Tang Dynasty era.

Also, whereas I want to know the full range of what a 壺 encompasses in the Tang era, I'm particularly interested in the finer 壺 made of jade or gold or etc.


enter image description here

This is a picture of a late 11th century BC altar set of wine vessels (Western Zhou Dynasty, long before the Tang Dynasty, kept at "the Met"). The central vessel is a Zun (尊/樽/鐏), and there are many different kinds of wine vessels including the Jiǎ 斝 and Jue 爵 here pictured. Would all these classify as “壺”, or would some of them only be 杯 (cup)? I need to know which ones would classify under the “壺” category and which ones wouldn't. Certainly the Zun was still in use during the Tang Dynasty until at least the Song, but would it count as a “壺”?

  • Cool, well research question; unfortunately I don't have the education/skills/knowledge to even understand the question, let alone answer it. Good luck and +1
    – MCW
    Mar 6, 2020 at 12:41
  • @MarkC.Wallace Thanks so much
    – Johan88
    Mar 6, 2020 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


This is what real Tang dynasty "pots" (壺) look like:

Sources: Left, National Palace Museum | Right, Christies's

As you can see, a hu (壺) is more similar to a modern vase than pot. The item in the first image you found isn't anything historical or even an imitation of one. I suppose it is stylistically somewhat similar to this silverware item, which is classified as an unusual zun (樽):

Note that bronze vessels, as mentioned in the question, went out of fashion after the Han dynasty as ceramics began to displace bronzeware. Designs likewise often evolved over time, so it's not necessarily possible to draw a direct line from Zhou classifications to Tang usage almost 1000 years later.

However, items called as hu (壺) did exist in the Pre-Qin era (often, inscribed on the item itself). They look not altogether dissimilar from their Tang descendants:

Sources: Left, National Palace Museum | Right, Sotheby's

With bronzeware, the zun (尊), jia (斝), and jue (爵) all refer to specific types of vessels with distinct functions. The zun (尊) is for holding the wine, jia (斝) is for warming it, and jue (爵) is for the actual drinking.

A hu (壺) serves a similar function with the zun (尊), but differs in having a smaller opening as the images above demonstrate. A zun (尊) is typically an impressive, towering work that looks like:

Source: National Palace Museum Facebook

The classical bronze zun (尊) was impractical and rather more ceremonial in nature, causing it to die out soon after the Zhou dynasty. At the time of the Tang dynasty, wine was poured into a the phonetically identical zun (樽) before being scooped out for drinking:

enter image description here
Source: cropped from the Picture of Learned Men

  • 1
    Do you know how I can research these Tang Dynasty pots? I want to view as many as possible.
    – Johan88
    Mar 6, 2020 at 14:16
  • Um.. how about this porcelain Zun from the Song Dynasty? china.org.cn/arts/2018-01/10/content_50211754.htm
    – Johan88
    Mar 6, 2020 at 14:31
  • @Johan88 If you mean the second photo, it's a retro-style vessel meant to immitate Zhou era zuns. Most from the period don't look like that. I should also caution against jumping dynasties; things change over centuries. For a source, perhaps you could find a musuem with a good collection of medieval Chinese ceramics.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 8, 2020 at 7:52
  • It says "Bluish white-glazed Jun porcelain Chuji Zun of Song Dynasty". In the Song Dynasty they were making retro style vessels to initiate Zhou ruins?
    – Johan88
    Mar 8, 2020 at 9:16
  • 1
    @Johan88 Not regularly, no. Just like you'll occasionally see retro style products today, historical societies sometimes craft retro style objects, but it was not mainstream.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 9, 2020 at 8:20

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