2,000 year old bronze food vessel featuring smiling bears becomes internet sensation
Published: Apr 01, 2021 09:58 AM
the bear leg ding. Photo: Sina Weibo

the "bear leg" ding. Photo: Sina Weibo

the bear leg ding. Photo: Sina Weibo

the "bear leg" ding. Photo: Sina Weibo

A bronze ding, a unique type of ancient Chinese cauldron, has recently become a social media star, intriguing netizens with its cartoonish bear-shaped legs and its ingenious design. 

Unlike most ding, which usually have two handles and simple tripod legs, this particular ding's three legs were carefully designed by its ancient creator in the shape of bears with two perky ears and an open snout that makes them look to be a bit surprised or smiling. 

Additionally, the creator also cast four animal shaped figurines, two on the lid and two adorning the handles, which act as a lock keeping the lid on the vessel. 

This well-conceived mechanism has led researchers to theorize that the "bear leg" ding was once used as a "pressure cooker" similar to those from the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD25). The two figurines on the handles must be flipped up in order to put the lid in place. The two other figurines on the lid are then clipped across the handles in order to lock the food vessel. 

This unique ding quickly began trending online after it was revealed to the public recently, with the related hashtag earning nearly 200 million views on China's Sina Weibo. Some netizens have praised it as a "utensil ahead of its time," while others expressed they were stunned by how contemporary the bear design appears despite being part of an ancient relic. 

"The ding's popularity is mainly due to the bears' dramatic facial expressions. Their mouths are shaped like Disney cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse. And also, the bears' posture is very anthropomorphic; they are semi-seated with their palms on their knees... this makes them look very modern," Zhang, an illustrator working in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The relic has also inspired netizens to opine on how such distinctive relics have inspired diverse lines of cultural creative products. 

"As a designer, I always get some inspirations from the 'antique,' especially when it comes to borrowing some patterns, colors and figures such as the Terracotta Army. for me, when designing an interesting cultural creative product, I always think about how the new things around us can collide with the old to make it pop out. Like a brooch I designed that has terracotta warriors dressed in suits and ties," Panpan, a designer specializing in creating cultural creative products, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The ding is around 18 centimeters tall and 17.2 centimeters wide. It was discovered in the Han Tomb of Mancheng, a Western Han Dynasty "cliff tomb" in which several cooking utensils were uncovered. 

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