Vase dou 豆


Vers 1118
Bronze, Fonte à la cire perdue
Objet religieux, Vase
H. 18.5 x D. 25.5 cm
Legs : Cernuschi, Henri
M.C. 98

Inscription: 惟(唯)政和八年十月戊子皇帝[崇 ?]举上真作豆以祝长生大帝君其万年用保用  [“The eighth year of the Zhenghe era, in the 10th month, the day Wusi, emperor venerating the Supreme Goodness, made this dou vase for the god of Longevity. May it be conserved and used for all eternity”]
There is no trace of a mould: the object was cast using the lost wax process, perhaps in two parts – while there is a hollow between the top and bottom of the decorative band, there is no visible trace on the inner side. In this vase, the knobs were not riveted, as on another dou vase (National Palace Museum, Taipei). This bronze is dated 1118, in an inscription incised on the outside of its upper part.  The contents of this inscription are rather strange. It appears to be dedicated to the god of Longevity (Changsheng Dadi), who was certainly not a major entity in Song religions. It is surprising that this inscription does not appear, to my knowledge, in any publication of bronze inscriptions. Of course it may have been acquired – probably in 1872 by Henri Cernuschi – before the publication of the Song Zhenghe ji qi wenzi kao 宋政和礼文字考 (Study of inscriptions of ritual vases of the Song Dynasty Zhenghe era) by Sun Zhirang (1848-1908). It is more dynamic than other inscriptions of this era, and its engraving appears more recent; but its style is definitely that of the Song. On the other hand, the motifs on the foot are very similar to those of the Xuanhe sannian shanzun 宣和三年山尊 (Imperial Palace Museum, Beijing).
Another fact raises suspicions: this vase is described as a dou and not a pu 铺, as one might have expected. The Kao gu tu and Bo gu tu give examples of these; the latter discusses the name and recognises that the pu is a sort of dou. Nevertheless, the choice of another name than the one used in the Bo gu tu – whose compilation is contemporary to the date of the inscription – seems odd. All the more so in that the word pu is made up of the character “metal”, designating the material, while the dou is traditionally made of wood – at least in part – and the bian of wickerwork (Bo gu tu, chap. XVIII, pl. XVII). But given that the names and classifications of the Bo gu tu were still in use in the 18th century, at the time of the compilation of the Xi qing gu jian (Catalogue of antiquities in the Xiqing Pavilion), the term dou does not point to a recent work either.
If it is a fake, it is a very well made one. Its maker must have had in-depth knowledge of the inscriptions of Song vases in the imperial collections, such as the Zhenghe ding 正和鼎 (National Palace Museum, Taipei) and the Xuanhe sannian shanzun, and of the vases themselves.

Reference(s) : Chong xiu Xuan he bo gu tu 重修宣和博古图 (Catalogue illustré des antiquités de Xuanhe révisé) [Bo gu tu compilé entre 1111 et 1125 par Wang Fu 王黼 ], édition préfacée de 1636, d’après l’édition Chong kan bo gu tu 重刊博古图 de 1528.
Michel Maucuer, Bronzes de la Chine impériale des Song au Qing, Paris Musées, 2013, p. 42-43.