Bronze Cowrie Container

Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 25 AD)
Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming

Cowrie shells were used as an early form of money in this region of China. They were kept in elaborately decorated bronze containers such as the one shown here. The top of the container is surmounted by a freestanding gilt horseman who is encircled by four oxen, that are approached in turn by two tigers (the handles) climbing up on opposite sides of the container.