Black double-handle amphora, Han dynasty


Warring state to Western Han dynasty 3rd to 2rd century BC
8.5 cm high, 10.5 diameter

Description: This large and elegant looking jar is the most typical vessel excavated from Sichuan province in the south west of China, near to Tibet. Although they were produced largely from late Zhou throughout Han dynasty, they were definitely made by non-Han peoples. The entire design somehow recalls that of bronze from Sanxingdui in the same area in parallel period with Shang dynasty. The rim is in rhombus shape, while the base is round with a shallow foot ring at the bottom. Two flat handles are attached to the top of the mouth and end at the wides side of the body. The neck is narrow, and the body is bloated. Each side of the jar has a pair of concentric circles, which look like wide-opening eyes. Overall the shape of the jar resembles the head of a ram, thus this jar is commonly called “ram horn” jar in Chinese. There are horizontal lines carved around the rim and in between them are filled with many vertical lines. The handles have two large dots pressed onto the surface. The jar is burnished to have a mat black grey layer with subtle scrubbing traces left by the shaping tools. Among all such black jars, the majority have uniform grey black surface and sometimes it may show a blue purplish tune. What makes this piece distinguished is the preservation of the white slip decoration on the surface, it is rare for such detailing to survive on these jars.

Provenance: An American collection

Reference: For a similar vessel of this type, see Dawn of the Yellow Earth, Reginal Krahl, 2000, P100