The inscription reads: Tianzi Sheng (Ting) zuo Fu Ding yi, 'The Son of Heaven Sheng (Ting) made this Fu Ding vessel.'
The third character of the inscription, composed of the character for ear, er, and the character for mouth, kou, was not included in Xu Sheng's (58-174) Shuowen Jiezi. According to Jinwen Dazidian, this character is normally used as a person's name or as the alternative writing for the character ting, 'listen', or sheng, 'sage'. The rubbing of an identical inscription to the one on the present lot is illustrated in Yin Zhou Jinwen Jicheng, 'Complete collection of Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions', Shanghai, 1993, vol.12, no. 7296. It was also taken from a bronze gu, and very probably from the same bronze as the present lot. According to Yin Zhou Jinwen Jicheng, It was reputed to have been in the collection of Chen Jieqi, a famous bronze and seal collecter in the late Qing, part of whose collection is now in the National Palace Museum.
The distinctive high-relief decoration of taotie design assembled from isolated raised elements on a leiwen spiral ground, belonging to 'Style V' as categorised by Loehr, is an innovative new style appearing in the late Shang period. The design scheme on the present lot tends toward balanced arrangement of the motifs and symmetry, even the snakes (or silk worms) and dragons on the narrow registers are executed in confronted pairs. For a closely related 'Style V' example, but with the snakes all facing left, see R. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, Massachusetts, 1990, vol.1, p. 248, no. 36. For an example with confronted snakes but executed in 'Style IV', where there are no distinctive high-relief decorations, see Ibid, p. 240, no. 33.