Shrek in China, 1200-1100 BC

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. I snapped this bronze ewer last weekend in the Freer & Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution.

It was made when the Shang Dynasty ruled, somewhere in the valley of the Yangzi river, more than three thousand years ago.

It’s an immensely sophisticated object, both in technological terms and in its social functions. We can only guess what it meant to the people who commissioned and made it. It may have had a role in ritual, or been intended to impress by demonstrating the learning, taste and wealth of its owners.

It’s certainly not a piece of jokey mass-produced merchandise. But, with no disrespect intended to the long-departed ghosts of its creators, it made me smile.

I think that’s magic. And an object that can still cast a spell after so many centuries is worthy of notice.

Discoveries like this are the reason I love museums.

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