The first three characters of the inscription, jia zuo yi, may be translated as 'Jia made this ritual vessel'. The fourth character consists of the character dui and an additional stroke underneath. The exact meaning of this fourth character is unknown.
The Jia Fanghu was formerly in the collection of Liu Tizhi (1879-1962) and was published in Liu’s catalogues, Shanzhai jijin lu (The Records of Archaic Bronzes in the Shanzhai Studio), and Xiaojiaojingge jinwen taben (Rubbings of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Xiaojiaojingge Studio). Liu Tizhi, literary name Huizhi and Shanzhai Laoren (elder man in the Shanzhai studio), was a native of Lujiang, Anhui province. His father, Liu Bingzhang (1826-1905), was the governor of Sichuan province in the late Qing dynasty, and his father-in-law, Sun Jianai (1827-1909), was a grand secretary and a mentor to the Guangxu Emperor. Liu Tizhi’s collection ranged widely from oracle bones to archaic bronzes to rare books. Rong Geng (1894-1983) commented in his Shangzhou yiqi tongkao (A General Study of Archaic Bronzes in the Yin and Zhou Dynasties) that “Liu Tizhi has the biggest collection of bronzes among all Chinese collectors in the recent years.” In the 1950s, Liu Tizhi gave his collections of oracle bones and rare books to the Cultural Ministry, and they are now kept in the National Library and the Shanghai Library, respectively. His bronze collection was dispersed to major museums and private collections over the years, including the collection of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973), the collection of Rong Geng, and the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Shanzhai jijin lu (The Records of Archaic Bronzes in the Shanzhai Studio) is one of only a few traditional Chinese catalogues which included both rubbings of inscriptions as well as line drawings of the vessels.
The strapwork decoration on this vessel is based on leather straps secured by diamond-shaped studs that would have been found on leather pouches or flasks of this period. This design first appeared in the early Western Zhou period and became a standard design on hu vessels in the middle Western Zhou and early Spring and Autumn periods. The strap also serves to divide the lower body into eight panels, which are often filled with dragon or bird motifs on later examples. A similar, but larger hu (36.5 cm. high), lacking the cover, found in Zhangjiapo, Changan, Shaanxi province, is illustrated by Minao Hayashi in In Shu seidoki soran (Conspectus of Yin and Zhou Bronzes), vol. 1 (plates), Tokyo, 1984, p. 301, hu no. 53. Another similar hu (48.3 cm. high) with an inscription dedicated by Zhou Zha, lacking the cover, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated by Hayashi, ibid, hu no. 52. The Zhangjiapo hu and the Zhou Zha hu are both dated middle Western Zhou. They have a band of bird motifs around the necks and the Zhou Zha hu has further cicada motifs on the strapwork. A middle Western Zhou hu decorated with strapwork decoration enclosing phoenix motifs, was sold at Christie’s New York, 17 September 2008, lot 555.