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Houmuwu Ding


Houmuwu Ding

“The Houmuwu Ding”  is a massive bronze sacrificial vessel. The term “Ding” refers to a sacrificial vessel, and this one is a common type of Chinese ritual bronzes of the ancient Chinese Shang dynasty. It is the largest piece of bronze work found anywhere in the ancient world. This Ding’s named is based on the inscription in the bronze interior wall, which reads Hòumǔwù, meaning “Queen Mother Wu”.

Ancient Chinese Ding’s have legs, lids and two facing handles, they were made either as round vessels with three legs or rectangular with four legs. They were used for cooking, storage, and ritual offerings to the gods or to ancestors. The Ding and the privilege to perform the associated rituals became symbols of authority. The number of Dings a person could own depended to one’s rank in the Chinese nobility.

Liu Ding

A round ding vessel with three legs. Late Shang Dynasty, Shanghai Museum

The “Houmuwu Ding” is of the rectangular type, with four legs, compared to earlier Ding, this one is wider and thicker. Each side has a blank space in the middle, surrounded by a band of decoration featuring animal faced creatures and dragons. The two handles are decorated with tigers facing each other, their jaws closing around a human head.

Houmuwu Ding

  • Title:                   Houmuwu Ding, also known as Simuwu Ding (wine vessel)
  • Chinese:             后母戊鼎
  • Year:                   1300 – 1046 BC
  • Period:               Late Shang Dynasty
  • Find site:           Wuguan Village, Anyang, Henan, China
  • Discovered:      1939
  • Material:           Bronze
  • Dimensions:     Height 133 cm, width 112 cm, depth 79.2 cm, weight 875 kg.
  • Museum:           The National Museum of China


“It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.”
– Chinese Proverb


Photo Credit: By Mlogic (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Mountain (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons