Bronze Axe With Taotie Face

Shang dynasty
Shandong Provincial Museum, Jinan

The depiction of a monster face, on this intimidating bronze axe, indicates that it was used for ritual or display rather than in battle. The features shown are eyebrows, eyes, nose, ears, and a grinning mouth with square teeth. The area of each cheek is covered by an inscription. In other axes, the face is cut out like a stencil rather than cast in reflief (e.g. Allen, The Formation of Chinese Civilization, illus. 6.38, p.175).