Lot 5. A rare pair of bronze silver-inlaid crossbow holders, cheng nu qi, Late Warring States-Western Han Dynasty.. Each 19cm (7 1/2in) long. Estimate ££50,000 - 70,000. Sold for £ 56,312 (€ 64,287). © Bonhams 2001-2019
Each rectangular socket of the bow-support shaped as a head of a tiger depicted with round ears and bulging eyes, the open mouth and elegantly-curved neck terminating with the head of a phoenix, all finely decorated with silver and gold inlaid designs forming abstract lines of coils, spirals and cicadas.
Provenance: acquired on 20 November 1969 (invoice)
Note: Crossbows first came into use during the Eastern Zhou dynasty (771-256 BC). Crossbow holders (cheng nu qi 承弩器) developed alongside as a means of securing the weapons to chariots and ensured ready access by soldiers. The front extends upwards into a curved hook, while the back end opened into a socket that was attached to a tenon at the front of the chariot. The crossbow would have been hitched to this tenon at an upward slant. A bronze chariot model from pit no.1 of the mausoleum of Qin Shihuangdi shows clearly how this was fitted. See Age of Empires: Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties, New York, 2017, pp.90-91.
Compare with a related pair of bronze crossbow holders with very similar gold and silver inlay decoration, Western Han dynasty, excavated from the tomb of Prince Jing of Zhongshan (Liu Sheng, d.113 BC) in Mancheng, now in the Hebei Provincial Museum, Shijiazhuang, and illustrated in Ibid, pp.121-122, no.43. A related pair of bronze crossbow holders, Late Warring States Period, is in the collection of the Cleveland Art Museum, Ohio, acc.no.1947.3
Crossbow Support, 300-200 BC, China, Late Warring States period (475-221 BC). Bronze inlaid with silver. Overall: 21.8 cm (8 9/16 in.), Edward L. Whittemore Fund 1947.3. © Cleveland Art Museum, Ohio
Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art, London, 16 May 2019