The inscription may be translated, "Bo you is for our descendents to keep".
The you was one of the most important wine vessels of the late Shang and Zhou period, and along with other bronze vessels made for holding food and wine, was part of the important ritual paraphernalia used at the ceremonies and banquets of the upper echelons of society. However, by the end of the Middle Western Zhou, the you, along with other wine vessels, such as zun and jue, had dissappeared from the repertoire of bronze vessels used for ritual purposes.
The elaborate birds which so elegantly fill and follow the elliptical shape of this vessel reflect a decorative scheme introduced into central China during the Western Zhou period. By the middle of the Western Zhou period, large bird motifs with arching crests and tails had become an important design element on rounded vessels, such as you, the ribbon-like plumage following and enhancing the shape of the vessels.
Stylistically this you is similar in shape and decoration to several others of middle Western Zhou date, such as the vessel, described as a feng you, found in 1976 in a cache of 103 bronzes at Fufeng Zhuangbai, Shaanxi province, illustrated by J. Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. IIA, p. 20, fig. 7. As with the present vessel, birds form the design in all of the registers, and the handle and handle terminals are also similarly decorated. Although the birds on the body of the Feng you are confronted, as on the present vessel, and are equally bold and ornate, they have the more customary arrangement of the long crest feathers arched forward over the head, whereas the crest feathers of the birds on the present you are neatly gathered together and bound by a band behind the birds' heads. This very rare feature appears to be unique.
Another similar you with confronted birds is the Jing you shown in a line drawing, op. cit., p. 427, fig. 53.2. Similar you with addorsed birds are the Geng Ying you in the Winthrop Collection, Harvard University Art Museums, and one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, both illustrated by Rawson, op.cit, vol. IIB, p. 429, fig. 53.7 and p. 595, fig. 91.1; as well as one in The Sumitomo Collection, vol. I, Kyoto, 1996, p. 38, no. 21. The Gong you, excavated in 1965 at Tunxi county, Anhui province, dated early Western Zhou, and illustrated by Ma Chengyuan, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, Hong Kong/Oxford/New York, 1986, p. 126, pl. 44, also has addorsed birds, but unlike the aforementioned vessels, there are addorsed dragons in the narrow band on the neck, a feature more associated with bronzes of somewhat earlier Western Zhou date.