The five-character inscription cast inside this vessel and cover may be read, 'Bo cast this precious sacral vessel'.
This large exuberantly decorated bronze you and cover is very similar to one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated by R.W. Bagley, 'Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Galleries, the Metropolitan Museum of Art', Chinese Bronzes: Selected Articles from Orientations, 1983-2000, pp. 38-9, fig. 6. It is also shown as part of the Duan Fang altar set which includes a similar, but smaller, you, as well as a bronze table, ibid., pp. 36-7. The altar set is said to be from Baoji county, Shaanxi province, and dated late Shang or early Western Zhou period, late 11th century BC. Most of the main elements of the decoration on the the present you and the Metropolitan you is very similar including the registers of vertical ribs and bird decoration on the body and cover, and the dragon mask with five- pronged horns or antlers that form the terminals of the handle, which are repeated on the upper curve of the handle of the present vessel. There are differences in other elements, such as the flanges, which are more hooked on this vessel, on the two hooked flanges projecting from the cover, which on the Metropolitan cover are pierced, where those on this cover are solid, and the decoration on the handle, which on the Metropolitan you is dragons, not cicadas, and which on the present handle is framed by high upright edges.
Another similar you and cover in the Hakutsura Art Museum, Kobe, is illustrated by Y. Sugimura, Chinese Sculpture, Bronzes and Jades in Japanese Collections, Honolulu, 1966, pl. 13-5. It is probably closest to the Metropolitan you, except for the addition of bovine masks at the upper curve of the handle, rather than repeating the dragon masks, as on the handle of the present vessel. Another related vessel is illustrated by J.A. Pope et al., The Freer Chinese Bronzes, Washington, 1967, vol. I, pl. 50, no. 50. Once again the decoration is in registers of vertical ribs and birds, but here the birds have pronged crests that match the pronged horns of the dragon-mask terminals, there are four long hooked arms terminating in a bovine mask projecting from the ribbed band on the body and the flanges projecting from the cover are cast in relief with a bovine head. Small bovine masks are also cast at the upper curve of the handle. Like all of these vessels the finial of the cover is cast as six narrow long- eared masks. Another you and cover of this type, dated to the Shang period, found in 1970 at Huangcai village, Ningxiang county, Hunan province, is illustrated by S. Lee, China: 5,000 Years, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1998, pl. 26. Here the main variations are the decoration on the top of the cover and the simpler taotie mask terminals of the handle.
Technical examination report available upon request.