Lidded food containers of this type are known
as liens. This lively green-glazed lien is
notable for its elegant decorations. The
fabulously molded lid takes on the form of the
Sacred Mountain, featuring various animals
and mythological creatures climbing towards
its jagged peaks. The container stands raised
on three charming feet molded in the shapes
of bears carrying the vessel on their backs.
The side of the body is embellished with a
panel in low relief natural motifs reiterating
the Sacred Mountain. Here, tigers and bears
are seen frolicking through the countryside.
Two purely decorative Tao Tieh mask handles,
depicting mythological Dragons, are also visible
on the side of the body. These Tao Tieh masks
relate to similar bronze examples where the
handles are actually functional. The gorgeous
green glaze recalls such bronze works.
Although this vessel would have functioned as
a food storage container in life, it was found
discovered buried in a tomb. Such a work
might have originally been buried containing
food inside, to be consumed by the deceased
in the afterlife. A symbol for the bountiful
pleasures of life, for eating and feasting, this
lien would have represented the joys to be
experienced in the afterlife and the feasts and
celebrations yet to come. Today, this vessel is
not only a gorgeous work of art, treasured for
its history and rarity; but also a stunning
reminder of the richness and luxury of the
Han Dynasty, both in this world and the next.