The Chinese word Hu means jar. Originally this vessel shape was an ancient bronze shape. Usually this name reefers to bronze or clay vessels imitating bronze.
During the Han dynasty, food became both abundant and varied. Even the common people enjoyed great improvements in their standard of living. Han tombs nearly always included storage jars (hu) full of cereals and wine for the afterlife. Unglazed Han dynasty Hu (jars) are often large, lidded and cold painted in red, white and purple pigments with spiral patterns. Glazed Han Hu Jars are found in green or brown lead glazes, often over moulded decorations imitating cast bronze.
The shape is characterized by a pear shaped body continuing upwards in a sinous curve toward a generous opening often covered with a lid.
The Hu jar seems to have originated as a bronze vessel during the Shang Period (1600-1045 BC). During the Shang period the decoration was dominated by taotie mask motif and leiwen thunder pattern. By the end of the hang dynasty square shapes began to appear.
During the Western Zhou Period (1045-771 BC) larger sizes become more common. The hu still mainly served as a wine vessel for ritual uses. The taotie design was gradually replaced by other types of animal and geometric decorations. Any Hu found from these times seems to have been hidden in preparation ahead of wars and invasions. Therefore, the vessels' burial context provides less clues about their functions and meanings.