The inscription cast on the interior wall consists of a clan sign, Ge, and three characters, zuo cong yi, which may be translated as '(a member of) the Ge clan made this ritual vessel.' Yi is a general term for all ritual vessels. In bronze inscriptions, adjectives such as bao, lyu, and cong are sometimes added to yi. While the phrase baoyi (precious ritual vessel) is a standard expression, the exact meaning of lyuyi and congyi are unknown. Some scholars have attempted to correlate these names with the function of vessels, and found lyuyi often appears on you vessels and congyi almost only appears on food vessels: see Zhu Fenghan, Zhongguo gudai qingtongqi (Ancient Chinese Bronzes), Tianjin, 1995, p. 59.
This fangding is notable for its unusual and well-cast band of S-shaped serpents on the upper body. Fangding decorated with rows of raised bosses in combination with serpent motifs appear to have been popular in the late Shang and early Western Zhou periods. The serpents on the majority of these fangding are more naturalistic, with two tails extending outwards from a central head on each side of the vessel. See, for example, a fangding dated to the early Western Zhou period, in the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, illustrated by J. Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Vol. IIB, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 234-39, no. 6, where fourteen other comparable examples of this type are listed within the entry. The Yuan Fangding in the collection of the Shanghai Museum has very similar decoration to that on the present vessel, with the same band of angular, stylized serpents on the upper body, and dated by inscription to the period of King Zhao of Western Zhou, see Chen Peifen, Xia Shang Zhou qingtongqi yanjiu (Study of Xia, Shang and Zhou Bronzes), Shanghai, 2004, pp. 15-17, no. 199. (Fig. 1) Although the treatment of the serpents is comparable, the Shanghai Museum fangding has only two serpents on the long sides of the vessel, whereas the present vessel has four.
The present fangding was once in the collection of Henri Hoppenot (1891-1977), a French diplomat who served in many illustrious posts, including that of French president of the United Nations Security Council, Plenipotentiary Officer at Montevideo, and the French Ambassador in Bern, Switzerland, where he was an honorary Member of the Museum of Fine Arts. He was also the last person to hold the position of Commissioner-General of France in Indochina from 1955-56. Together with his wife Hélène, who was an accomplished photographer, Henri Hoppenot produced the book Extrême-Orient, Neucha^tel, 1951, which contains photographs of religious architectural sites and ethnographic scenes in East Asia.