Sculpture of a standing owl

Accession No. R001756
Period Shang Dynasty
Material Stone
Findspot Royal Tomb No. 1001 Hsi-pei-kang, Yin-xu Site
Geographic Location Hou-Chia-Chuang village, Anyang, Honan province, China
Dimension H.34.1 cm; L.25.2 cm; W.24.8 cm


This marble piece was carved into the three-dimensional shape of a standing owl with sharp engraved lines delineating the eyebrows, eyes and feathers. The owl has two horns and a pair of ears that are shaped like human ears. Decoration was applied to different parts of its body in accordance with the shape of the selected area: thus, the wings are decorated with a serpent motif, the wing tips a dragon motif, and the chest an animal-mask motif. The decorative techniques used, are similar to those employed on the Bronze Bird-Shaped Zun (R001074) recovered at Hsi-pei-kang. A long vertical groove with an inclination of 100°, runs through the back of the owl from the top to the bottom. It is suspected that the groove was a joggle joint that slotted into a wooden pillar. The whole piece may have been designed for use as an architectural ornamentation. In fact, marks of rotten wood were observed around the groove during excavation; unfortunately, the artifact was recovered in a disturbed context, redeposited after fossicking activities, and the original purpose of it cannot be confirmed.