Bronze bottle

Sui or early Tang dynasty first half of the 7th century 

Height: 9 inches, 23 cm

A bronze bottle, the pear-shaped body supported on a short, splayed foot, which has a rolled edge. The long, slender neck rises from a single ridge at the shoulder and terminates in a flared mouth. The metal has a dark, silvery patina with significant areas of and bright green encrustation. 


The unadorned nature and stark simplicity of this bottle support the premise that it was made for use in a temple. The Sui dynasty, albeit relatively short in comparison to previous dynasties, marked an important period in Chinese history, since it witnessed the reunification of the country under the rule of a purely Chinese empire.[1] The fact that Buddhism was encouraged during this period is evident from the existence of this elegant bronze bottle; bottles such as this were used in Buddhist temples for ritual purposes and are said to contain the ‘elixir of life’. Sui dynasty Buddhist metal sculptures often represent Avalokitesvara holding a bottle of this shape; see for example a standing figure of Guanyin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.[2] The minimalist shape originates in metal, but was later seen also in other materials such as pottery. A closely comparable bronze bottle is in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which also holds two examples in glazed stoneware.[3] Two bronze examples of similar shape and size, respectively dated to the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 – 589) and to the Tang dynasty, were included in the 1999 exhibition Tin-bronze of China at the Kuboso Memorial Museum of Art in Izumi, Japan.[4]

  1. Deydier, C. Chinese Bronzes, Rizzoli, New York, 1980, p.157
  2. Deydier, op cit, p. 160 and 162
  3. Stephen, B. et al, Royal Ontario Museum, the T.T. Tsui Galleries of Chinese Art, Toronto, 1996, catalogue no. 67
  4. Special Exhibition of Tin.Bronze of China, Kuboso Memorial Museum of Art, Izumi, 1999, nos. 4 and 50, pp. 8, 29