Jian of this particular shape and decoration are rare.
Prototypes for the development of this design are the Zhao Meng jie hu in the British Museum, illustrated in Jenny So, Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. III, New York, 1995, fig. 54, and the Zhi Jun Zi jian in the Freer Gallery of Art, op. cit., fig. 55. The Zhi Jun Zi jian shares with the present lot the closely related bowl shape, the division of the decoration into three bands with interlaced designs, as well as the faceted loop handles issuing from monster masks and suspending flat rings.
Another related jian from Shanxi Taiyuan Jinshengcun, is published in op. cit., fig. 60, sharing with the present lot the same features such as the Zhi Jun Zi jian from the Freer Gallery of Art. Jenny So, op. cit., p. 41, notes that the dissolved dragon pattern also appears on the decoration of the fourteen bo zhong bells, as illustrated in op. cit., p. 369, showing the rubbing of the closely related decor on a gu panel taken from a late sixth century bell found in North-central China.
Another massive Spring and Autumn Jian of similar shape, but with bands containing comma-shapes and differently cast loop handles, is illustrated in Shanghai Hakubutsukan Ten, Tokyo National Museum, 1993, pl. 29; and another jian from the Oeder Collection in the Berlin Museum, sharing with the present lot the lappets on the lowest band, the low-relief decoration again with comma-shapes, in George W. Weber, Jr., The Ornaments of Late Zhou Bronzes, New Jersey, 1973, pl. 5; see also the jian from the Jingguantang Collection sold in our New York rooms, March 20, 1997, and the vessel illustrated in Charles Fabens Kelley & Ch'en Meng-chia, Chinese Bronzes from the Buckingham Collection, Chicago, 1946, pl. LI.
Jenny So, op. cit., p. 40, notes that the creative blending of past and present styles that resulted in the elegant interlaced designs typically associated with Houma, which is apparent on the bands of the present lot, took place toward the end of the sixth century BC. The interlaced dragon-patterns constitute a large part of bronze decoration at Houma Niucun, implying that it served as a major production centre for bronzes so decorated during the late sixth to mid-fifth century BC.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test nos. C101x87 and C101x86 is consistent with the dating of this lot.