The inscription consists of forty-three characters and describes how the state of Kai was engaged in war with the Rong people, and according to Li Xueqin, The Glorious Traditions of Chinese Bronzes, p. 27, may be interpreted: "On the renshen day of the chuji phase of the tenth moon, the Yu Rong launched a massive attack on the state of Kai. Hai fought in the war against the Rong and captured enemies and decapitated them. Kai Hou rewarded Hai in formal presentation with a team of horses, the household of a chen (government minister) and five peng of cowrie coins. Hai was grateful to Kai Hou for these generous rewards and had this gui specifically cast so that it could serve as a sacrificial vessel in rites honoring Kai Zhong".
This inscription is historically important, as it refers to the state of Kai, which was a feudal state during the Western Zhou dynasty, but according to Li Xueqin, op. cit., p. 25, had never been referred to in any historical account, although it is referred to in inscriptions on a few bronzes. The author goes on to fully discuss these other bronzes and the names that appear on them, Kai Bo, Kai Hou and Kai Zhong, as well as the inscription on the gui, pp. 22-9. The three persons named, Kai Bo, Kai Hou and Kai Zhong, are believed to have been active no later than the reign of King Kang of Zhou (1026-996 BC?), the third King of the Zhou dynasty. The state of Kai is thought to have been located in the area of today's Zhidan and Yan'an counties in Shaanxi provice, and it was in the northern part of this area where the Rong groups were active.
The shape and decoration of this gui are similar to other inscribed gui including two illustrated by J.A. Pope et al., The Freer Chinese Bronzes, vol. I, Washington, 1967, pp. 384-7, no. 69 and pp. 388-91, no. 70. The decorative band on the foot of no. 69 is birds rather than that of the present vessel, and the handles on no. 70 are heavier and surmounted by large bird heads. Another gui with similar shape and decoration, which stands atop an integral square base, in the Katherine and George Fan Collection is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Shouyang Studio, Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2009, no. 34. See, also, the similar vessel bearing an inscription datable to the mid-Western Zhou period illustrated by J. Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. IIB, Washington, D.C., 1990, p. 424, no. 53. (Fig. 1)
A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.