Whereas before, war was characterized as a civilized contest between aristocratic armies, during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), war evolved into the chaotic conflict we know it as today. Kings and princes were replaced on the battlefield by infantries lead by military generals. Peasants were recruited to serve on the front lines. Warfare intensified, especially in terms of the duration of campaigns. New arms and armor were invented, including the halberd and crossbow. Chariots rode alongside archers outfitted in iron helmets and body armor. Defensive walls were erected in order to repel invaders. However, despite the turmoil of the times, the arts continued to thrive. Bronze casting was revolutionized by the introduction of the lost-wax technique, while the alterations of kiln structures enabled new firing techniques that resulted in fully developed glazes.
Although the Warring States Period was marked by almost constant upheaval, it also represents a golden age of Chinese culture and thought. Needless to say, the arts continued to flourish as this exquisite terracotta vessel reveals. Such a container would have been used for storing, transporting, and serving fine wines or grains. The upper half of the body has been divided into sections by a series of ribbed bands. As well, the vessel features two Tao Tieh mask handles, one on either side of the body. These masks are a common feature on such vessels and represent stylized dragon heads. It is possible that a handle, fabricated in a material that decomposed over the centuries, was once connected to these handles. Although this vessel would have functioned as a wine or grain storage container in life, it was found discovered buried in a tomb. A symbol for the bountiful pleasures of life, for drinking and feasting, this vessel 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 Ancient China, both in this world and the next.