Fanglei are amongst the rarest, most imposing, and most majestic of Chinese archaic bronzes. The largest fanglei known appears to be the Min fanglei (88 cm. high), sold privately through Christie's New York in March 2014, and now kept in the Hunan Provincial Museum. See ‘Min’ Fanglei and Selected Bronze Vessels Unearthed from Hunan, Shanghai, 2015, no. 1. According to research by Xiao Taochu of the Hunan University and Wu Xiaoyan of the Hunan Provincial Museum, there are only 45 examples of Shang and Western Zhou fanglei, the majority of which are in major museums around the world. See Wenwu, 2016, no. 2, p. 58 and Appendix 1.
Shang and Western Zhou fanglei can be divided into three groups based on the arrangement of their decoration. The first type has whorl-cast bosses centered by relief animal masks and loop handles around the shoulder, such as an early Yinxu example without a cover found in Huayuanzhuang Dongdi M54, illustrated in Ritual Bronzes Recently Excavated in Yinxu, Kunming, 2008, p. 165; and an early Western Zhou example in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated by Wu Xiaoyan and Xiang Taochu, op. cit., p. 59, fig. 6. The second type has two narrow friezes of decoration on the shoulder and upper body and a band of taotie-filled blades pendent around the lower body, such as the fanglei formerly in the Sze Yuan Tang Collection, offered at Christie’s New York, 16 Sep 2010, lot 838; one with a Ya Yi clan sign, thought to have come from a royal Shang tomb at Xibeigang, Anyang, now in the Okada Museum of Art, Hakone, illustrated by Sueji Umehara in Nihon shucho shina kodo seika (Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Japan), vol. 1, Osaka, 1959, no. 6; and another example in the Nezu Museum, illustrated ibid, no. 13. It is interesting to note that the Nezu example has taotie masks cast upright on its cover, whereas most of the taotie motifs cast on covers are inverted, as seen on the Fujita fanglei.
The third and most elaborate type has multiple friezes of kui dragons and taotie fully embellishing the body, such as the present vessel. Other known examples include two very similar fanglei, one in the Sumitomo Collection, Kyoto, illustrated in Sen-oku Hakko: Chugoku kodoki hen, Kyoto, 2002, p. 97, no. 114, and the other in the Nezu Museum, Tokyo, illustrated in the Nezu Museum, Kanzo In Shu no seidoki, Tokyo, 2009, p. 33, no.12; one without a cover in the Shanghai Museum, published extensively, including by Wen Fong, ed., The Great Bronze Age of China, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1980, no. 27; one with a Ya Chou clan sign in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji: gongyi meishu 4, Beijing, 1987, no. 126; and a Western Zhou example in the St. Louis Art Museum, illustrated by S. D. Owyoung in Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, 1997, no. 24.