The use of bells has a long history in China, beginning with the sets of musical bells developed in mid-2nd century BCE. Bronze temple bells would have formed an important part of the rituals in a Buddhist temple, they would have provided a platform for dedications; been rung on significant days; to announce events; and the melodious sound produced by the bell was considered a form of communication to the spirit world.
Ming-dynasty bronze bells of this shape can be found with a variety decorative registers and cylclical dates. A bronze bell of similar shape, decorated with inscriptions and trigrams and presented to a Daoist temple in 1431 by Zheng He, is illustrated in Ming, 50 Years That Changed China, London, 2014, pp. 272-273. Another example of this type, a bronze bell dated to the sixth year of Zhengde (1512), with registers of panels enclosing names and a double-dragon form handle, was sold at Christie's London, 7 November 2017, lot 192.