An unusual aspect of the two-character inscription, zi yu ('son''rain'), on the present you is that it appears not only on the interior base of the vessel, but on both of the surfaces of the cover projections, instead of inside the cover. These sturdy projections at the lateral ends of the cover are remnants of a bird's beak that evolved from depictions related to those on the Duke double-owl you (lot 145). These projections and the placement of the lugs to support the bail handle on the shorter axis of the vessel are characteristic elements of later Shang aesthetic preferences.
A you dated to the 12th century of similar proportions and with similar cast designs, but now missing its handle which would have been situated over the shorter axis of the vessel, is illustrated by R. W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1987, p. 372, no. 64. Bagley also illustrates, p. 375, fig. 64.2, an earlier you from Hunan Ningxiang with a long-axis handle and lacking the blunt projections at the ends of the cover. It is reported that jades were found inside both of these vessels when they were excavated. The author suggests, p. 375, the projections found on the covers of later you, such as the Cull example, enhanced the silhouette of the vessel, and their presence required the handle to be positioned over the shorter axis. W. P. Yetts suggests in The Cull Chinese Bronzes, Courtauld Institute, London, 1939, p. 5, that the orientation of the handle on the shorter axis of the vessel also provided a practical advantage over the other arrangement in that "by tilting the vessel with one hand under its base, while the other holds the handle, the contents can be poured in a more easily controlled stream than when a vessel is tilted in the direction of its shorter diameter".
Other comparable you with very similar animal-mask terminals and dated to the late Shang period include one reported to have been excavated in Anyang, Henan province, which is now in the Freer Gallery of Art and illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji - Shang, vol. 3, Beijing, 1997, p. 132, fig. 131; and another in the British Museum, illustrated by W. Watson, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, London, 1962, no. 23b. A similar you with bottle-horn dragon-head terminals in the Shanghai Museum, is illustrated, ibid., vol. 4, p. 164, fig. 170; and another is illustrated in Miho Museum, South Wing, Shigaraki, 1997, p. 169, no. 78. Other related you include an example with more pronounced flanges and cicada decorating its large cover projections, and containing 320 jade beads when excavated in 1970 in Huangcai, Ningxiang County, Hunan province, and now in the Hunan Provincial Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji, vol. 4, op. cit., p. 156, fig. 160; an example with bottle-horn dragon-head terminals excavated in 1985 in Jiangxi province, and preserved in the Sui Chuang county Museum, illustrated ibid., vol. 4, p. 159, fig. 164; a you with bovine-head terminals unearthed in 1974 in Mianling Village, Wuming county, Guangxi Autonomous Region, and now in the Guangxi Autonomous Region Museum, illustrated ibid., vol. 4, pp. 160-1, figs. 165-7; and another example with bottle-horn dragon-head terminals in the Qishan county Museum that was excavated in 1973 in Hejia Village, Qishan county, Shaanxi province, illustrated ibid., vol. 4, pp. 162-3, figs. 168 and 169.
Technical examination report available upon request.