He are known as early as the Erligang culture (16th-14th century BC), and during the Shang dynasty were used as wine containers. Unlike other Shang vessel shapes that disappeared at the beginning of the Western Zhou period, the he survived, but gradually it came to be used for the pouring of water during ritual ablutions in conjunction with the water basin, pan.
This vessel is very similar to one excavated in 1972 from Tomb No. 2, in Baicaopo, Lingtai Xian, Gansu province, which is dated late 11th-early 10th century BC, and, because of its inscription, known as the Luan Bo he. See Wen Fong (ed.), The Great Bronze Age of China, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1980, no. 44, and p. 205, where it is noted that several features of the he, especially the large zigzag pattern in raised relief, are reminiscent of earlier pre-Anyang lobed vessels.
Another very similar vessel formerly in the David-Weill Collection and now in the Musée Guimet, is illustrated by M. Girard-Geslan, Bronzes Archaïque de Chine, France, 1995, pp. 138-41. This he was purchased by Osvald Karlbeck in 1934, along with a yi and a fangding, in the Zhengzhou region, Henan province.