Cast on each side with eighteen bosses formed of coiled snakes, this massive bell from south central China would have likely been among the largest in the graduated set from which it came. It would have produced the deep, sonorous tones that lent gravitas to the ritual ceremonies in which it was used. The tones produced on large bells such as this resonate considerably longer than those struck on the smaller ones.
Like many fifth century b.c. bronze vessels and bells from the ancient Chu state in southern China, this work carries detailed and finely cast designs in low relief. The registers alternating between the rows of bosses at the top and the rectangular register centered at the bottom zone are each decorated with tiny raised patterns, probably representing intertwined dragons. Such large-scale castings, calculated to produce an exacting musical note, are testaments to the technical abilities of the ancient artisans who did not yet have the mathematics necessary to calculate an exact formula for the relation between size and pitch.