This type of bronze vase, called a fanghu in Chinese, is an elegant example of a decorative technique popular in China at the end of the Zhou dynasty, around the 4th-3rd centuries BC. In this example, the purple-grey patterns are silver inlays which have tarnished, while the golden patterns are inlaid in two layers. First, thin stripes of a non-precious metal like copper were hammered into pre-chiselled depressions on the surface; then a thin layer of gilding was overlaid on the top. This device obviously helped to economize on precious metals.
Vases with inlaid decoration, although utilitarian in scope, were generally considered luxury items to display as symbols of wealth and prestige, and as such they often would have been buried in graves after the death of their owner. The production of inlaid vessels was still widespread during the subsequent Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).