Cranes and Serpents


475–221 BCE
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Did You Know?

The cranes' long necks allowed a lightweight drum to be suspended from strings through the beaks, while the densely intertwined snakes provided a weighty base to stabilize the object during musical performances.


A different style of ritual art developed in the state of Chu in South China. In addition to bronze vessels, lacquered wood artifacts expanded the repertory of ritual implements.

This extraordinary sculpture was probably a drum stand for supporting a suspended drum in ritual ceremonies. It is unique among other excavated drum stands of the Chu, which typically show two birds standing on tigers. The theme of the bird stepping on the serpent was common in the Chu visual culture. Yet the slender proportions and seemingly flimsy structure of this particular set raise the question of whether it was utilitarian or mostly served symbolic functions in the tomb.

The birds' and serpents' bodies have designs painted in red lacquer and yellow pigment against the black lacquer. Scientific analyses confirm the additional use of a blue or green pigment that has been discolored over time.
Cranes and Serpents

Cranes and Serpents

475–221 BCE

China, reportedly from Hunan province, Changsha, Warring States period (475–221 BCE), State of Chu (c. 1046–223 BCE)


Cranes and Serpents - Chinese language version

Cranes and Serpents

Drum Stand

Conservation Examination

A Touchstone

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