Name : Full-surface Rubbing of Sung Hu (Pot) 

Date : Late Western Chou (9th – 8th B.C.) 
Size : Gross height 135.0, 138.0 cm; gross width 67.0, 69.0 cm 
Register No.: 188528-1、188528-2 

Descrpiton: The lid of the vessel is roughly square, with decorations of vertical fish scale patterns. Around its rim there are ch’ieh-ch’u (intertwining-dragon) patterns. The rubbing shows partial inscriptions on the two sides of the lid, and also inscriptions inside the vessel near the mouth. The body of the vessel appears to be oval, with two handles in the form of beasts holding rings in their mouths. As with the lid, the base of the vessels is embellished with vertical fish scale patterns, while its neck is decorated with circles. Below the neck is a relief of a dragon with two bodies; its bodies curl and form a pair of ‘Cs’ at the middle of the vessel giving a sense of three dimensions. 

Epigraph inside the vessel: The rubbing is stamped with the following words: “寶蘊廔臧器” (on the lower-left side) and “高陽李宗侗玄伯珍賞 “ (on the lower-right side). 

Epigraph in the bottem of the vessel: Inscription: Inside the vessel near the mouth is an inscription of one hundred and fifty-one words; all these words are neatly carved inside squares. 

Epigraph on the lid of the vessel: 器蓋內銘文拓片左下:「玄伯」、「寶蘊樓」

一、Sung Hu

There are two Sung Hus extant; one is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and the other in the Chinese History Museum, Hsi-an. The rubbing displayed in the Museum of the Institute of History and Philology is of the former Sung Hu, 51.15 cm in height, or 63.9 cm if including the lid.

As a kind of ritual bronze vessel, the hu is always used in ceremonies to contain alcohol. It is called “hu” because there is an inscription on the vessel stating so, and this puts it into the category of “self-naming vessel,” viz. the inscription on the vessel indicates what the vessel should be called. Furthermore, this hu is called a Sung Hu because its manufacturer’s name is Sung. The text inscribed explains the reason why an aristocrat, Sung, would make this hu: Sung had been appointed by the King of Chou to a new position (which was to manage the storehouse in Luoyang for the demands of the imperial palace). The text next described the procedure of the ceremony in which Sung had been awarded, and the meaning of the hu. After the ceremony, Sung wanted to show his gratitude toward the king and to honor his deceased parents; so he made this hu to be used in commemorations. It not only expresses Sung’s filial piety, but also conveys his hope that he could live happily with great fortune to an old age. Finally the text reminds his offspring to treat this hu with respect. The text of the inscription describes the procedure of conferring titles in detail, thus it could be used as cross-evidence with records of the Shangshu, the three Li and Zuozhuan and is of great research value. There are altogether two hus(pot), three tings (cauldrons) and five kueis (bowls) that are made by Sung and bear such an inscription.

Large-size square pots like Sung Hu were quite popular in the late Western Chou era, and the decoration on it is characteristic of its time. Consequently, the significance of Sung Hu lies not only in its inscription; its features, shape and decoration are also of scholarly interests. 

二、The making of Full-surface Rubbings

Chia-ch’ing (1796-1820) eras, when the technology of photography was not so wide spread. At that time, the traditional rubbings and line-drawing carvings could not satisfy the demands of collectors; and for this reason the full-surface rubbing was utilized. The method to make a full-surface rubbing is as follows: 

1. Clean the surface of the object to be copied. If an object newly excavated is rusty, one can use a knife, vinegar, hydrochloric acid or electrolysis to remove the rust; if the object has been excavated for a long time, one should wipe the surface clean with warm water. 

2. Choose an angle that most clearly reflects the features of the object. Use a pencil to label a set of axes on a piece of paper for a reference of exact height and width of the object, and also its shape. Draw a basic outline of the object on the paper. 

3. Apply a fluid made from hyacinth bletilla onto the surface of the object, then paste the paper onto the surface of the object, dampening it with a towel with some gentle pressing. This helps to remove the air between the paper and the object. 

4. Press the paper into the depressions of the character and pictures on the object with a brush.

5. Dip the tamping bag with ink and pat it lightly on the rice paper. The black color on the rice paper deepens with each pat. This procedure greatly determines the quality of the full-surface rubbing; its success depends upon the ability of the person who makes the rubbing.

6. After the paper is totally dry, softly peal it from the surface of the object. However, since the object is three rather than two dimensional, the shape of the object is often twisted and needs to be corrected; sometimes one can make a paper mold and rub the edge one wishes to mend onto the paper, or paint the edge of the rubbing with ink.

The making of a full-surface rubbing is a highly demanding technique. The difficulty lies in the fact that one has to present a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional piece of paper. The result of the rubbing varies depending on the method of production. There are mainly two methods: one is to reproduce the object on a single piece of paper, and the other is to make rubbings of different parts of the object then cut and paste them into a complete full-surface rubbing. These two methods have both benefits and drawbacks. The making of a full-surface rubbing demands knowledge in drawing, rubbing, framing and collage. Besides the clarity of the inscription, the shedding of light, the thickness of the object, the patterns and style should all be stressed. This makes full-surface rubbings highly difficult to produce; distinguishing between finely and badly made full-surface rubbings is rather easy. Chou Kang-yuan was in his day a master of full-surface rubbing; he had made rubbings and seal cutting his life-long profession. To create a full-surface rubbing of high quality, he even attended seminars on methods of drawing and painting in order to understand the working of perspective. He made many of the full-surface rubbings in the Institute’s collection.

三、Meaning of Full-surface Rubbing

The function of a finely made full-surface rubbing is almost the same as a photograph; it is complete a record of the object. Because full-surface rubbing is a difficult technique, extant works are very rare; among them, the ones produced by masters and bear stamps often have aesthetic value; in other words they can be considered as artworks – which are more precious than a mere rubbing. Moreover, scholars or collectors who recognized the value of the full-surface rubbing usually made documents or stamps to show their ownership. The manuscripts at the same time indicate the location of excavation of the original object, the owners, the history of the object, and verification of inscription texts. They are very useful for understanding extant bronzes. Sometimes the original bronze is lost and only its full-surface rubbing extant, in which case the full-surface rubbing is all the more valuable. 

Just when the technique of full-surface rubbing reached its height, photography, lithography and collotype were introduced into China; they finally prevailed and the technique of full-surface rubbing disappeared. For this reason, the number of such rubbings is small. Moreover, because the rubbings are all made on paper, and the preservation technology in the past was poor, many of the rubbings have suffered. Some are moldy, some have turned yellow or carry spots, and some have been damaged by insects, which make them hard to restore. To avoid further decline in the number of full-surface rubbings available for future research, the Institute established a “Full-surface Rubbings Online Archive” as a part of the project “Digital Epigraphy Archive.” The archive avoids the need to access the original rubbing when one is doing research, and it also provides more convenience for the knowledge and information to be spread on the internet, thus benefiting more academic research.

(by Shih Ping-qu)


1. 陳昭容、黃銘崇、袁國華,〈傅斯年圖書館藏銅器全形拓〉,《古今論衡》3(1999.12),頁159-170。 
2. 陳秀玉,〈失落的技藝—全形拓〉,《古今論衡》7(2002.1),頁130-144。 
3. 張臨生,〈一百期特輯—百珍集萃‧西周晚期 頌壺〉,《故宮文物月刊》第9卷第4期(總100期)(1991.7),頁11。 
4. 國立故宮博物院編輯委員會編,《商周青銅酒器》(台北:國立故宮博物院,1989),頁166-169,圖版伍參。 
5. 國立故宮博物院編委會編,《文物光華》第二冊(台北:國立故宮博物院,1986),頁67。
  • Sung Hu (Pot)

    Sung Hu (Pot) 

  • Inscription: Inside the vessel

    Inscription: Inside the vessel 

  • Inscription: Inside the vessel

    Inscription: Inside the vessel