Container with Lid, Warring States Period (480-221 B.C.E.) . Chinese .Changsha, Hunan. Lacquered wood with gilt bronze mounts; h x diam: 8 13/16 x 8 1/8 inches (22.38 x 20.64 cm). Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 48-36/1 A,B. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art ©2012 Nelson Gallery Foundation

During the early 20th century, railroad construction throughout China brought to light many buried treasures from China’s long history. In Changsha, Hunan province, the most notable objects uncovered were lacquer works dating from the fifth to third centuries b.c.e. The lacquer covered box with gilt-bronze fittings is an impressive representative of the finds in this region and period. The oval, covered box is constructed of single blocks of wood, which were then lacquered and painted. When taken apart, the lid would then serve as a second serving vessel. The intricately painted bands of decoration are composed of four dragon-like creatures in red and brown hues. The body of each creature leads toward a transformation into a scroll-like pattern.  The box is a prime example of Han dynasty artisans in the Hunan region working with lacquer, wood and Chinese painting styles of the era.