Lot 2864. A bronze tiger-form finial, Warring States period (475–221 B.C.)9. 3/8 in. (24 cm.) long. Estimate HKD 380,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 750,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2020. 

It is solidly cast in the form of a crouching tiger. Its head is raised growling with a long lean body and outstretched tail curling upwards at the tip. The head is finely cast with wavy lines suggesting fur, and with spiralled scrolls and continuous patterns defining the brows, ruff and the tail, the eyes inlaid with turquoise. Each side of the body is also decorated with bands of stylised kui dragons. The underside has a small aperture for attachment, box.

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong, 6 December 1995
Property from a member of the Ching Wan Society, Taiwan
Chang Wei-Hwa & Company, Taipei.

NoteBronze tiger-form fittings of this type were originally used as the finial on top of a bronze drum, chunyu, which served as a musical instrument to give commands to troops, as stated in Zhouli (Rites of Zhou). From late Warring States (475-221 BC) to early Western Han (206 BC-AD8) the instrument was largely used by people in the State of Ba (?-316 BC), an ancient state in eastern Sichuan province whose border was shared by the Qin, Chu and Shu Kingdoms. According to legend, the founder of the State of Ba, Lord Lin, transformed into a white tiger after his death. Hence, the tiger motif signified the power, strength and supernatural forces of the Ba people.

Two chunyu drums bearing a similar tiger figure on top, but unornamented, are illustrated in J. So, Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 1995, pp. 399-405, nos. 82 and 83, the first dated 4th-3rd century BC, the second late 3rd century BC. Another example is a Western Han tiger-mounted chunyu in the Shaanxi History Museum Collection, China, illustrated by Li Xixing in The Shaanxi Bronzes, Xi’an, 1994, p. 284.

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 9 July 2020